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What do you do if you find a seal

Quick advice: Understanding and Managing a situation with a distressed seal:

Risks to Grey Seal Pups:

  • Risks to Pups: The pups are suckled on land by their mother. However, the pup is in great danger when left exposed on the beach. These dangers include:
  • Drowning: This is probably one of the most common hazards. This can happen on the large spring tides or if the pup is disturbed and frightened into the water.
  • Starvation: If there is a lot of disturbance on the beach, the cow will not return to the pup.
  • Infection: Young pups are particularly prone to infections, especially to the eyes and respiratory tract.
  • Abandoning: Cows may abandon their pups due to inexperience or disturbance on the beach. Without regular feeding, the pup will die in 3 to 4 days.
  • Predation: Ill or weak pups are very susceptible to predation by crows and gulls. They usually kill them by pecking their eyes out.

First Aid

It is possible that you might come across a Grey Seal Pup as you take a stroll along a rocky seashore any time during the months October to December. What should you do?

  • Observe from a distance until the next full tide, unless it is obviously sick or injured. –
    • Interference too early may prove fatal.bHow Old is the Pup?
    • White coat: Unweaned (less than 3 weeks old).
    • Grey coat: Weaned (more than 4 weeks old).
    • Wet umbilicus: Less than 3 days old.
    • Dry umbilicus: 4 – 7 days old.
    • Less than 3 foot long: – This year’s pup.
    • More than 4 foot long: – At least a year old.bIf the pup is unweaned, check for the mother at sea. This may take some time.Does The Pup Look Well Fed?
    • Malnutrition is the most common condition encountered. Unweaned pups seperated prematurely from their mothers have inadequate reserves to fall back on after weaning and often succumb to malnutrition.
    • If you can see the underlying bones (the pelvic bones particularly), the pup is underweight.
    • After the first week of life, pups should be well rounded, with no obvious neck and no visible bones. Does the Pup Look Healthy?
    • A healthy pup should NOT exhibit the following:
      • Heavy or noisy breathing. (Normal respiratory rate is 5 – 15 per minute)
      • Continual coughing or sneezing.
      • Very runny eyes and nose (N.B. A small amount is often normal)
      • Cloudiness or damage to the surface of the eyWounds (cuts, grazes, abscesses)
      • Sealpox lesions occur primarily on the flippers, abdomen and chest

Don’t worry if the pup is quiet. It is probably asleep and will remain so until approached closely. If the pup appears well rounded and healthy and, in the case of an un-weaned pup. the mother can be seen, leave it well alone and make sure other people do so as well. The only exceptions to this are: rough seas, marauding dogs and curious people.

Never Put A Pup Into The Sea

Unweaned pups are not good swimmers and older pups may be hauled out for a good reason. If the pup is obviously ill, suffering respiratory problems or is definitely abandoned, it should be rescued.

Rescuing A Pup

  • Approach the seal from behind. Bites from a seal or pup can be very dangerous.
  • Lift the pup onto a blanket by its hind flippers.
  • Move it in the blanket as quickly as possible to a clean, well ventilated and draught free box or shelter.
  • Pups should be able to lie off the ground on a rubber mat or timber pallet.
  • DO NOT provide loose bedding, since ingestion may prove fatal.
  • DO NOT provide heat such as a heat lamp or electric heater. If the animal is very cold, towel off excess water and use a fan heater for a very short time, just long enough to take the
    chill out of the air.
  • DO NOT use disinfectant without veterinary advice.
  • DO NOT use cows milk or baby milk on seal pups.

If in doubt, get in touch with THE IRISH SEAL SANCTUARY or your local Seal Sanctuary as soon as possible!