If you see a seal, or any other marine animal, that may be abandoned, malnourished, sick, injured, trapped, entangled or in some other immediate danger, please call the BDMLR Rescue Hotline as soon as possible for 24 hour assistance on:
Observe and Report
In the vast majority of cases, human interference of animals in need, however well-meaning, can make matters worse for the animal and as hard as it is, sometimes even the professionals have to make difficult judgements and decisions that are in the best interests of the animal. Please leave animal assessments and rescues to trained professionals and do not attempt to interfere or approach seals unless trained to do so.
British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) are the UK’s leading marine mammal rescue organisation with thousands of trained volunteer marine mammal medics throughout the UK, specially trained to rescue seals, whales, dolphins, seabirds and even turtles as well as assisting in major environmental events such as oil spills and mass strandings of cetaceans. Trained medics nationwide answer call outs and work voluntarily 24 hours a day, 365 days a year supported by a team of national coordinators, veterinary experts and consultants. On reporting a rescue, the closest medic will be sent to your location as soon as possible in order to carry out a full assessment of the reported animal and make a decision about the next course of action.
Always remember to GIVE NATURE SPACE.
While awaiting a medic, there are a number of important steps that should be taken:
DO NOT APPROACH SEALS
If you encounter a seal on a beach, please stay back, give it plenty of space, and watch from a distance. The period of time during which seals are hauled out on beaches and coastlines is critical to their survival and it is essential they are not disturbed. Seals regularly haul out onto the land along our coast in order to rest, digest their food, and feed their young. A seal on land is not abnormal and is part of their normal behaviour so does not necessarily mean there is a problem. They are extremely susceptible to disturbance and it is notoriously difficult to read any stress related behaviours. If a seal is looking towards you, you are likely too close and creating a disturbance. Approaching seals closely can result in stress, injuries, and even abandoned pups at certain times of year that will not survive without their mother. Seals also have an incredibly powerful bite and carry lots of harmful bacteria on their teeth that can cause infection. As wild animals and top marine predators, they will not hesitate to defend themselves should they feel threatened. The best thing to do is to ask everyone to stay back, observe from a distance, and GIVE SEALS SPACE.
As mentioned above, seals are susceptible to many different types of disturbance including noise. A sick or injured seal is likely already incredibly stressed so it is important no new stressors are introduced to the situation. While awaiting a medic, avoid creating noise in the area from loud talking or shouting or barking dogs etc. Sources of stress can cause the seal to be scared into the water which may be detrimental to its survival.
DO NOT POST LOCATIONS ON SOCIAL MEDIA
NWSRO never posts locations of seals on social media and this is even more important during rescues and awaiting medics. Posts can spread throughout the internet quite quickly and encourage large crowds to gather which not only increases stress to the animal but can also make rescue more difficult and put extra pressure on medics. We do however appreciate that many people wish to celebrate the amazing diversity of wildlife along our coast through photography so best practice would be to encourage keeping locations vague and still sharing your amazing sightings as many of our wonderful local photographers already do.
KEEP DOGS UNDER CONTROL
Dogs and seals are known to attack each other. Every year, along the coast of Wales, a number of young seals have to be removed from their natural environment and placed in rescue centres in order to be treated for dog bite wounds. Please consider keeping your dog on a short lead if walking in an area where seals are known to frequent, particularly in pupping seasons.
A whale, dolphin or porpoise on the beach is obviously not a usual phenomenon. These animals do not beach themselves under normal circumstances, and will require immediate assistance. Please DO NOT return the animal to the sea as they may need treatment or a period of recovery before they are fit enough to swim strongly. Instinct may be to help them back to sea but this may not always be the correct course of action.
In all instances of beached whales or dolphins and sick or injured seals, call the BDMLR Emergency hotline immediately.