This is the time of year when we receive lots of calls from the public about seal pups appearing to be stranded on our beaches. We’re always on hand to give advice about specific sightings, and we will intervene if necessary, but the vast majority of seal pups don’t need any help.
Both the Atlantic Grey seal and the Harbour or Common seal can be found in Manx waters. In the autumn, females come on to land to give birth to a single pup. Usually they pick remote locations, such as the Calf of Man, although sometimes pups can be seen on the mainland too. The female leaves her pup while she goes out to sea to hunt for food and so a passer-by may assume the pup has been abandoned.
The ManxSPCA is working closely with Coastguard and Manx Wildlife Trust to co-ordinate responses to seal pup sightings. If the pup appears to have no physical sign of injury, it will be left in situ for at least one turn of the tide. The biggest threat to the pup comes from dogs, and from the close proximity of humans, which may scare off the mother seal.
If the mother seal does not return, the pup will be brought to live in one of the seal pens at Ard Jerkyll, but this really is a last resort. Older seal pups have better life chances when they come to us, because they have already started to eat fish. Older pups sometimes become exhausted in rough seas, and simply need time to recuperate on land and so, as with the very young pups, they need to be observed in situ for several hours. If they don’t go back out to sea then a few days spent in our seal pens enables them to gain body weight and strength, and to be checked over by a vet, before they are released back where they came from.