How to help stranded seal pups this season

Scott and Pippa Hopkins watched one little pup make its way back to the sea at Garrya Beach, Tolsta, recently when they were up visiting thier Granny in Stornoway. Remember though: Don't get too close to seal pups - they can and will bite!
Scott and Pippa Hopkins watched one little pup make its way back to the sea at Garrya Beach, Tolsta, recently when they were up visiting thier Granny in Stornoway. Remember though: Don't get too close to seal pups - they can and will bite!

It’s that time of year again – seal pups are born and the weather turns nasty, which can lead to newborns separated from their mothers and stranded.

From now until around February there will be many sightings of seal pups on the islands’ beaches.

Although it is quite normal for seal pups to be out of the water – many you see will be fit, fat and healthy and just having a rest or waiting for mother who will be around, watching and waiting for the humans to disappear – however, sometimes a seal pup on a beach is in need of help, and the first thing to do is get some help.

Western Isles Area Co-ordinator for voluntary organisation British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) Sandy Macdonald expanded: “When pups start to lose their white coats, at around three weeks old, they are weaned very quickly and their mothers leave them to find their own way in the world.

“After a spell of rough weather though you may find a very young pup that is injured or thin as well as white and fluffy, and there is a good chance that the up was washed off the rocks in a breeding colony and out to sea before being washed ashore.

“Their white coats are not waterproof and are very difficult to swim in which causes many young pups that are separated from their mothers like this to drown before reaching land,” she continued.

“The best thing to do if you ever find a young pup with a white coat is to leave it alone, do not touch it, go as far away from the pup as you can and watch to see if there is any sign of the mother returning and call for help and someone will go out to check on it.

“Do NOT try and touch the pup – they may look very cute, but they can and will bite!” Sandy added.

Signs of malnourishment in a seal pup include loose skin visible around its neck – you will probably see a neck shape visible and even a waist and definition over the hip bones if it is very thin.

Injuries the pup may have can include bites from other seals or dogs; cuts from being hit off rocks in rough weather; net, rope or fishing line entanglement, or eye injuries. And signs of illness can include discharges from mouth, nose and eyes; tremors; listlessness or coughing.

“If a pup has reached this [malnourished] state it is in a very bad way. Please take a note of anything usual and call for help,” said Sandy.

You can contact BDMLR on 01825 765546 (07787433412 Out of Hours); or the SSPCA on 03000 999999. And if you find any dead seals, pups or adults, or any other marine animals, please report then to the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme on 01463 246043 or email strandings@sruc.ac.uk