Seal count reveals numbers ‘quite a bit down’ - but winter surge not to blame

PUBLISHED: 14:12 10 January 2019 | UPDATED: 14:12 10 January 2019

Look out for seals off the coast at Horsey.

Picture: James Bass

Look out for seals off the coast at Horsey. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2012

An unknown number of seals were victims of the winter surge, but volunteer wardens say the impact was minimal.

The grey seal colony at Horsey 

Picture: James BassThe grey seal colony at Horsey Picture: James Bass

There were fears the breeding colony at Horsey/Winterton could see multiple pups separated from their mothers or drowned if they were unable to escape the heaving waters and retreat into the dunes.

However the latest seal count by volunteer wardens undertaken today, Thursday, reveals numbers are at the expected levels.

Peter Ansell, chairman of the The Friends of Horsey Seals, said although there were fewer pups than last week many were ready to strike out on their own and there were no reports of orphaned seals washed up further along the coast.

The count revealed there were 270 adults and 182 pups on a three and half mile stretch from Winterton to Waxham.

A baby seal pup at Horsey Picture: James BassA baby seal pup at Horsey Picture: James Bass

Last Thursday there were 294 adult seals with 451 pups.

It brings the total number of pups to a record 2,068, against 1,825 last year.
Mr Ansell said it was impossible to know how many of the pups had left the beach because they were old enough and how many had perished, but at this point in the season he expected most would have been able to cope.

“The numbers are quite a bit down on last week,” he said. “What we cannot know is how many of them were washed away.

“When we had the big surge before they were all swept all over the place and popping up on Winterton beach.

“It is quite possible that the ones we have lost are the older ones going out to sea because they are old enough and big enough to do so. If we have been affected it will only be by a very small amount.

During the tidal surge of 2013 when the breeding season was in full swing up to 400 animals were affected, only around 100 of which were found.

There are still 90 seals at Winterton which is not roped off and people are asked to take care.

With most of this year’s offspring now fending for themselves there are reckoned around 8,000 pups out in the sea trying to fish.

Mr Ansell was keen to remind people they could pop up on beaches anywhere along the coast to rest and needed to be left alone.

“They need to come ashore to sleep and rest and they can come ashore anywhere, so if people see the odd pup here and there it is resting and certainly doesn’t want to be disturbed and chased back into the sea.

“If they look fat and healthy leave them alone.”

MORE: Caught on camera but not in real life - this horribly injured seal is still swimming around

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