Public urged to not touch seals as record number of pups are released on Hunstanton beach

Seals in the water at the Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary. Picture: Ian Burt

Seals in the water at the Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

The public are urged to avoid close contact with seals on Hunstanton beach whilst a record number of the pups are released back into the wild.

Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary will be releasing eight common seals on Monday- the most seals to be released together so far this year.

They are among 39 seals the sanctuary has rescued in the past 12 months with many still undergoing rehabilitation at the sanctuary's seal centre.

Some of the pups were well enough to be let back into the wild but contact with the public has led to some being abandoned by their mothers.

This is due to the inability of the mother seals to recognise the smell of their young, and so Sea Life staff have issued an urgent plea for members of the public not to touch any seal pups they find on the beach.

'It's really important not to touch seal pups on the beach, even if they appear to be abandoned,' said Natalie Emmerson, seal expert at Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary.

'This is because seal mums often leave their young on the beach while they go hunting.

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'We've been called to rescue seals several times where a pup looks perfectly healthy, but we've had to take it into the sanctuary because well-meaning members of the public have moved it in an effort to make it more comfortable.

'As soon as a human smell is transferred to the pup, we know the mother will definitely abandon it, because she won't recognise it as her own, so we have to take it in and teach it how to fend for itself in the wild.'

Rescued seal pups are taken into the sanctuary where they undergo a thorough medical examination and are reared to interact with other seals their own age.

Once they reach the target weight of 25kg and the team are happy with their development they begin their journey home.

Ms Emmerson said: 'It's a lengthy process that usually takes around three months, but very rewarding.

'We would really encourage local people who visit the coast a lot to come and see the pups and learn about them, so they will know what to do if they see one on the beach and what happens if they need rescuing.'

Anyone who finds a seal pup on its own on the beach are advised to monitor it from a distance and call the sanctuary on 01485 533576 for advice.