It’s Pupping Time

The seal pupping season is almost here and soon females and their fluffy white pups will be spotted along the Welsh coast.

Living Seas Seal by Sarah Perry

Atlantic Grey Seal © Dr Sarah Perry

Atlantic grey seals are marine mammals that are closely related to bears! They are one of the rarest species of seals and around 40% of the world’s population is found in the UK.

Grey seals have a very distinctive head and their scientific name (Halichoerus grypus) means “sea-pig with a hooked nose”. Males are dark with light patches and have an arched roman nose. Females are light with dark patches and they have a smaller, straighter nose. Female grey seals can live up to 35 years old however, males only live to around 25 years old.

Unlike whales and dolphins, seals spend their lives moving between the land and the sea. They haul out of the water at sites called ‘rookeries’ where they rest, breed and moult. They return to the sea to feed and will eat a variety of fish including sand eels and cod as well as crustaceans, squid and octopus. They can dive to depths of 30m-70m in search of food. 

Seal Pup © Paul Board

Female grey seals reach maturity around 5-6 years old and will give birth to a single pup between late August to October. The pups are typically born on sheltered beaches or in sea caves, away from human activity. Pups are born with white coats, called langu, and are nursed by their mothers for about 17 to 18 days. In this time the pup gains 2kg of weight a day due to the high fat content (60%) of its mother’s milk.

Females must still forage for food whilst nursing and will leave their pup alone to do so. If you find a seal pup on the beach then keep your distance, the mother is most likely in the water nearby. Pups are poor swimmers so should never be chased into the sea. If the seal pup is disturbed by humans or dogs the mother may prematurely abandon it.

If you are worried about an injured or possibly sick seal pup then please contact the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999. DO NOT attempt to intervene yourself.

If you are worried about an injured or possibly sick seal pup then please contact the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999. DO NOT attempt to intervene yourself.

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