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Stranded seal: What would you do next?

You’re enjoying a leisurely stroll along a quiet beach when you discover a small, grey seal pup washed up by some rocks. It seems pretty agitated. It’s barking and waving a flipper – and is crying real tears. What would you do?

Grey seal pup relaxing on the rocks at the Farne Islands, Northumberland, England


Would you:
a) Immediately go over to try and help?
b) Keep walking, giving it a wide berth?
c) Watch from a distance before deciding to help?

The expert answer

We spoke to Stephen Marsh, Operations Manager at the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), to find out what to do.

Your instinct may be to comfort it or chase it into the sea but please keep your distance and keep dogs away. If you’re worried, give us a call at BDMLR (or one of the other organisations below).

It’s normal for a seal to be lying on a beach, waving and barking – or to be hunched up in a banana shape. And if you see a seal crying, that’s good: it means it’s well hydrated. If you find one that looks sick or injured you can always send us a photo from your mobile.

But avoid touching a seal – you could get an infection or be bitten. And too much human intervention, however well-intentioned, could cause a mother to abandon its pup.

Stephen Marsh, Operations Manager at the British Divers Marine Life Rescue

Photo: Alex Wilson

British Divers Marine Life Rescue
01825 765546 (24/7)

Republic of Ireland:

Seal Rescue Ireland
087 195 5393 (24/7)

Northern Ireland:
Exploris Aquarium
028 4272 8062

Redcar seals another rescue

Redcar Atlantic 85 class lifeboat B-858 Leicester Challenge III at sea in rough weather

Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard

RNLI Redcar came to the rescue when someone alerted the crew to a young seal that had strayed too far from the beach. It was on the steps of an apartment block.  Every time residents tried to pass, it started snarling and baring its teeth.

While our volunteers were working out how best to get the pup back to the shore, an off-duty coastguard officer (who runs a local pet shop) was passing with a large dog cage.

With a bit of cautious coaxing they got the seal into the cage and back onto the beach. It was soon reunited with the North Sea.

Dave Cocks, RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager at Redcar, says: ‘It’s common for seals to come ashore during rough weather but this one went a bit too far for its own good. It was pleased to get back to where it belonged and even seemed to take a couple of glances back to say thanks.’

Heading out for a winter walk by the sea? Keep yourself (and any rogue seals) safe by checking out our coastal walking tips