Video and photo gallery: Seal pups released back into the wild at Winterton after RSPCA care

The tidal surge seals from the RSPCA centre at East Winch being released into the sea at Winterton in Norfolk.

Picture: James Bass The tidal surge seals from the RSPCA centre at East Winch being released into the sea at Winterton in Norfolk. Picture: James Bass

Wednesday, February 26, 2014
2:32 PM

Orphaned grey seal pups that were cared for at RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre following December’s tidal surge have been released back into the wild.

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The tidal surge seals from the RSPCA centre at East Winch being released into the sea at Winterton in Norfolk.

Picture: James BassThe tidal surge seals from the RSPCA centre at East Winch being released into the sea at Winterton in Norfolk. Picture: James Bass

The eight pups, who were only around three weeks old and still covered in white fur when they were washed up on the shore, were too young to survive without their mothers.

But now, thanks to the care from staff at the centre made possible by donations from the public, the seals have been released into their natural habitat.

The grey seals, significantly chunkier than they were two months ago, were set free at Winterton-on-Sea today.

Now strong enough to survive in the North Sea, the youngsters - named after different breakfasts - bumped and flopped their way into the water. Within minutes, they were seen playing and swimming out of sight.

The tidal surge seals are leaving the RSPCA Centre at East Winch to be released Winterton beach. Picture: Matthew Usher.The tidal surge seals are leaving the RSPCA Centre at East Winch to be released Winterton beach. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Sugar Puff and Bran Flake were the first to go, quickly followed by Frostie, Marmite, Cheerio, Morn Flake, Coco Pops and Black Pudding.

Alison Charles, centre manager, spoke of her delight at seeing the seals leave.

She said: “It is never sad to see them go - to take them back to the wild is the best bit.

“Seals are philopatric which means they will come back when they are adults. But these are juveniles so they’re off to have an adventure in the Atlantic before returning to Norfolk.”

The tidal surge seals are leaving the RSPCA centre at East Winch to be released into the sea.  Picture: Matthew Usher.The tidal surge seals are leaving the RSPCA centre at East Winch to be released into the sea. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Winterton resident Jenny Devlin, 60, was walking on the beach with her son Ben, 32, and 22-month-old grandson Alfie, when they stopped to watch the seal release.

“We’re so lucky to get to see this,” said Mrs Devlin. “This is why is so nice to live on the coast.”

Earlier this morning, the seals began their journey at the East Winch wildlife centre.

From inside a drained pool at the centre, several wildlife assistants worked hard to ensure the heavy pups were securely placed in special stretchers, followed by a weigh-in.

The seals were then carefully carried and their stretchers placed in the back of two vehicles before being driven an hour-and-a-half down the coast.

They are just the first eight of 101 seals due to be released over the coming months and were the first to go after putting on enough weight and learning how to compete for food.

Some 100 pups arrived at the centre after the December 5 tidal surge, and it was the biggest rescue programme the centre had dealt with in 25 years.

Most pups were in need of intensive care and hand-feeding, which was virtually around the clock.

Mrs Charles, who has worked at the centre since 1989, said: “We had to rehydrate the seals with Lectare with a stomach tube, then transferred to fish soup, followed by force feeding which progressed to feeding by hand, then self-feeding.

“It was very hard work, and we all had aching sore limbs as you have sit astride them, and the pups could be very powerful.

“Someone kindly donated knee pads as our knees were getting very sore.”

As the task was so big, the centre had to appeal for help.

Staff were overwhelmed with donations from the public, and the £102,000 received helped to cover food and medication costs.

Mrs Charles thanked the public and volunteers for the help, and said: “We would not coped without the help we had. We had an amazing response from the public; people really wanted to help.”

3 comments

  • Unfortunately a high proportion of these seal pups were probably not orphans. Seal mothers do not abandon their pups lightly but instead leave them in relative safety on a beach when conditions are challenging for them, such as during the recent storms. This is the RSPCA and misguided members of the public overreacting to satisfy their own desire to interfere with nature. Better the seal pups didn't have to suffer being in captivity It is telling that the pups were given stupid names and that they happen to have big eyes with long eyelashes - why not spend your time and money protecting endangered bats?

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    MarkMyWords

    Wednesday, February 26, 2014

  • I am sure Mark-My-Words is providing us with a well informed and educated assumption here. However from my well informed and hands on experience I would say the pups were most certainly orphaned and injured from the storms, that the RSPCA and the guided by professionals members of the public were in no way overreacting but more responding to a crisis in a time of need. I also guarantee a well fed rehabilitated pup is better off than a starving lost pup. As for stupid names and long eyelashes, well a 'stupid name' is only one way to differentiate between a quantity of similar looking animals whom happen to be dangerous animals which require expert handling not cuddling. And last but not least bats..well they're just too small.

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    Norwich expat

    Thursday, February 27, 2014

  • A great story. Well done. To MarkMyWords,I'm sure all those people involved are experts and knew what they were doing when they rescued the stranded cubs. Those who contributed their time and money can make their own decisions on how to spend it. It seems the cubs did not suffer in their care and now can survive at sea.

    Report this comment

    homesick

    Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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