Back in June in my slightly abortive 30 Days Wild 2016 efforts, I took a bunch of photos of Grey Seals off the Cornish coast. I was meaning to get round to posting them, and a recent story about the danger seals present in St Ives gives me the perfect excuse…I’ve posted a lot over the years on fictional media horror stories about animals, be it attacks be kites and foxes, killer spiders, or deadly snakes, whatever rubbish the Mail/Express/Star/Telegraph have run, I’ve tried to debunk.
But I have to be fair and say there is an element in this one where I’m going the other way, backing the warning.
Seals “could take a child’s arm off”. Sounds like hyperbole, right?
Look at these seals. Harmless. They are lounging about in the sun, a bit podgy, a bit whiskery. No threat there. How about this vicious beast?
Puppy dog eyes that look back at you with intelligence and curiosity. Cute, basically. And cute can never be a threat.
Have a look at these two.
Here’s the thing about a Grey Seal, it’s a three metre, forty stone mammal. It’s got long clawed flippers and a mouth full of sharp teeth. It’s a predator, capable of taking on smaller seals, to say nothing of a wide range of fish.
The two above are fighting for a position. The animal on the right has scars across its right eye and across its back, and he’s the winner.
A female defending her pups is two metres and thirty stone. She may be smaller but she’s no less dangerous if she feels threatened, or feels her pups are threatened.
This isn’t meant to demonise seals, but the important thing is to remember we are dealing with complex, intelligent, emotive wild animals. They can be inquisitive and friendly. They are lovely animals to observe. But they have to be respected, as does any wild animal.
The chances are they won’t harm anybody, but that’s no reason to think it’s okay to harass them. Yet that’s what you see in those photos in the news stories; harassment.
We should watch wild animals whenever possible, and if they come close we should enjoy that, but respect it. We shouldn’t surround them, we shouldn’t charge them from boats, boards or anything else.
I did take some video at the same time, but it’s from a boat and it’s incredibly shaky. So here it is, but it’ll look rough!