Horsey grey seal births up 25-fold in 20 years

The grey seal colony on the beach at Horsey Gap in Norfolk, as the pupping season draws to a close a

The grey seal colony on the beach at Horsey Gap - Credit: PA

Seals on a Norfolk beach have seen births go from fewer than 100 to 2,500 in 20 years.

The chairman of Friends of Horsey Seals has estimated that a minimum of 2,500 grey seal pups have been born on the beach since November of last year.

The 2022 birth count was cancelled due to high tides which forced the animals on top of the dunes at Horsey Gap. This made it too dangerous for volunteers to carry out their usual count.

But Peter Ansell, chairman of Friends of Horsey Seals, has made an “educated guess” as there has been a 10pc increase each year, saying: “It’s a bit like the human population really.

“The older ones are living longer so they’re not dying off so quick, and the younger ones are reproducing at a rapid rate, and every year you’ve got a fresh batch of new mothers coming along, in addition to all the established ones.”

Mr Ansell said if extra-high tides continue to happen then future counts may also have to be called off.

A grey seal pup on the beach at Horsey Gap in Norfolk, as the pupping season draws to a close at one

A grey seal pup on the beach at Horsey Gap in Norfolk, as the pupping season draws to a close at one of the UK's most important sites for the mammals. Picture date: Sunday January 23, 2021. - Credit: PA

“This probably will happen again next year, because if we’re going to continue to get these extra-high tides then the seals will do what they’ve done this year – they’ll go for the high ground and we may find it impossible in future to do the counts," he said.

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“But we’re talking about nature here, and with nature you’ve no idea what’s going to happen next week, never mind next year."

Mr Ansell recalled a surge tide in about 2013 which was “like a mini-tsunami”, adding: “We lost about half the pups that were on the beach at that time.”

A grey seal pup on the beach at Horsey Gap in Norfolk, as the pupping season draws to a close at one

A grey seal pup as pupping season draws to a close at one of the UK's most important sites for the mammals - Credit: PA

He said there were about 600 in total that year and 300 were lost.

“They were swept out to sea and that was it,” he said.

Mr Ansell said there are plenty of open beaches further down the coast and there is a possibility the seals may migrate a little bit north or south.

A grey seal pup on the beach at Horsey Gap in Norfolk, as the pupping season draws to a close at one

A grey seal pup on the beach at Horsey Gap - Credit: PA

“At the moment it currently has expanded from a very, very tiny strip of beach… in say 2002/2003 there were less than 100 seals on the beach."