We have two different species of seal living in Wales - the grey seal and the common/harbour seal. They look different, can act differently and live different lives, but they both need our help to keep them safe from disturbance from land and sea. The grey seal is by far the most common you will see in Wales. In the UK we have over 40% of the entire world’s population, so it’s important we know how to behave around them to ensure they can feed, breed, rest and swim safely.
Pupping from August to December
Seals don’t like to be surprised. If you are in a quiet boat or kayak try if possible to stay at least 100 meters way, avoid creeping up on them and don’t surround them; so that they have a chance to swim away from you.
Noise disrupts seals. If you are in a powered boat keep your speed below 5 knots on arrival and departure, and don’t get too close. Stay at least 100 meters away. That is about the size of a football pitch.
Did you know that seals swim erratically and dive suddenly if they are scared? If you see them doing this when you are out on the water then you have got a bit too close.
If you see seals resting on the beach do not approach them, particularly between August and December when they may commonly pups. If they look like they are scared or aggravated, moving away from them can prevent a stampede into the sea.
If you find a white-coated pup on the beach alone, the chances are the mum is not too far away in the water somewhere. Please leave them there. Interfering with pups i.e. handling and transferring human smell, may cause the mum to abandon them.
It’s great to watch seals sun themselves on warm rocks under the summer sun. Get yourself a good vantage point on the cliffs above the beach and enjoy the spectacle. But do try to be quiet and discrete as even cliff-watching can disturb them.
In the past the sound of a moaning seal is thought to have lured ships onto rocks, as sailors were mesmerised by the sound – but in fact it’s just one seal, probably female, letting another know that space is taken.
‘Banana-ing’ / Bananaring is when a seal lifts its head and tail upwards at the same time. Researchers think this happens when seals want to keep these parts of their body, which are sensitive to cold, out of the water.
Female seals, when nursing their pups, won’t eat at all and can lose up to a third of their weight during breeding season.
Grey seal pups spend about 3-4 weeks with their mother at the nursery site before being weened, after which they fend for themselves.
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