Seals – They’ll have your arm off…

Atlantic Grey Seal

Grey Seal

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?

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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One Response to Seals – They’ll have your arm off…

  1. Tony says:

    Hi David,

    We need more of these types of posts on nature forums and blogs, I’d suggest. You’re definitely not demonising the Seal, far from it, you’re educating those intent on listening to you. Another animal worthy of such a post, might be the cute and cuddly Badger? Errr cute and cuddly they ain’t, although a young Badger is alluring, to say the least. Aside from all the controversy and emotions surrounding such a creature and its current role in farmland management and conservation issues, there are problems surrounding having too many predatory species in a landscape. Problems which extend to crop protection issues, soil erosion and hedgerow destruction and nesting bird losses. The Badger is not alone in this and is one of many creatures creating an imbalance in some parts of the UK countryside and beyond. I wonder how the role of the Seal influences the amount of food available to other wildlife, for instance? Questions, questions and more questions.

    Best Wishes

    Tony Powell and naturestimeline

I welcome thoughts, comments and questions, so please feel free to share anything at all. Thanks, David

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