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Grey seal strands near Beachy Head

07/05/2013 08:59:54

Greay seal a beach near Seaford. Grey seals are not usually seen on this coastline.

East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service called to seal on a beach near Seaford

The following is taken from a press statement from British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) & East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service (WRAS).

May 2013. A seal was reported on the beach on Sunday 28th April to the east of the Hope Gap Steps, which are located just west of the Cuckmere Haven at Seaford in Sussex. The initial report was of a healthy seal sunning itself.

A second report came in half an hour later reporting a 4ft seal injured on the beach with blood on its rear flippers. WRAS attended on site after speaking to BDMLR's out-of-hours co-ordinator. On arrival we found Sussex Police on site due to concerns for public safety. We were rather surprised to find a 7ft long 250kg adult grey seal which do not normally haul out on the East Sussex coast line. The seal was also a long way from the tide and had hauled out at the high tide mark which is unusual for an adult.

Unable to get a vet on site Sunday night, the seal was monitored until dark for the animal's and public's safety, and volunteer medics returned at first light on 29th April. After a search of the area, the seal was found a quarter of a mile to the west of the steps at Hope Gap. The location was even more problematic and difficult to get to. The vet could not get to the site before the tide came back in.

Staff from WRAS returned a couple of hours after high tide to start searching for the seal which was now so high up the beach it was at first missed. Alan Knight of BDMLR arrived on site with a vet and nurse from Beachwood Vets in Seaford. The seal was clearly ill; an unusually prominent pelvis showed that it was well underweight; the eyes showed signs of cataracts; and the seal was allowing people to go close enough to touch it as its vision was so poor.

There were numerous abrasions and wounds from the rocks from where it had hauled out each time. There was no chance of rehabilitation. This is not the same seal as has been seen in the local rivers recently.

Tough decision
It was clear the seal was not going to move to a more accessible beach, and the decision was taken that as the seal was close to the steps this was our best chance of capture and recovery.

Trained medics from British Divers Marine Life Rescue and East Sussex Wildlife Rescue restrained the seal which put up some resistance at first but quickly became subdued, showing how unwell it was. The vet then sedated the seal before euthanizing it which was very quick and the seal put up very little resistance again showing how unwell the poor creature was. A healthy large adult grey seal would normally be impossible to catch.

As the seal was then a hazard to humans, dogs and wildlife, it was necessary to remove the body of which there was a legal requirement to do so due to the drugs used to euthanize the seal. Members of the local Fire Service and Newhaven Coastguard organised the removal of the seal off the beach which was not an easy task.

BDMLR and WRAS Medics spent over 30 hours from start to finish attending to this seal. The entire operation was very problematic and set a wide range of challenges for all the organisations involved, proving to be a very educational incident.

We would like to express our thanks to everyone involved for all their hard work and dedication.

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