Could there be trouble ahead for Horsey seals after record breeding season?
- Credit: James Bass � 2015
A Norfolk seal colony has again recorded its best-ever breeding season prompting concerns for the future if it continues to expand at the same rate.
Some 1400 pups were successfully weaned at Horsey over the last few months - their greater numbers drawing ever larger crowds of sightseers.
When the final tallies are counted visitor numbers are expected to nudge 90,000 such is the appeal of the wildlife spectacle.
Peter Ansell, chairman of the Friends of Horsey Seals group which protects and wardens the colony, said it was gratifying to see the animals doing so well.
But with more pups being born came more problems - not least the distribution of the animals which were now spread miles either side of the cordoned off area, making them vulnerable to disturbance.
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Mr Ansell said: 'We are up on last year again by a couple of hundred. The colony is increasing year by year and they are spreading out further making them impossible for us to monitor, we have just not got the manpower.
'We continue to do the stretch that we have always done and if we do that well at least the bulk of the colony will be looked after really well.
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'The colony is increasing by 200 every year so in five years we could have another 1000. Common sense says there is going to come a time when there could be a problem, although it is not a problem the friends would be in a position to do anything about.
'We will just carry on doing our bit for the seals of Horsey.'
Meanwhile warnings to keep away from the seals were still not being heeded especially on popular dog-walking beaches like Winterton where the animals were thinly spread and prone to attracting a lot of attention.
Occasionally when volunteers heard about a solitary pup causing a stir they would fly in, pick it up, and take it to Horsey - but that could not be done for every animal.
Mr Ansell believed the storm surge of Wednesday January 4 had probably picked off a few pups who were not yet able to properly swim, as the waves came right up to sea wall.
However any subsequent tides, including the one predicted for Friday, would not affect the colony because the season was nearly over and in a couple of weeks they would all be gone.
The friends group took over patrols at the colony 13 years ago, looking after just 50 pups in its first season.
This year's patrol squad comprised 150 volunteers, its largest yet.