British Divers Marine Life Rescue
British Divers Marine Life Rescue (photo: Steve Marsh)
British Divers Marine Rescue


2006-03-18 11:10:57

Seal pup rescued - Ravenscar, Yorkshire

Myself and Nick Richardson after talking to Derek at sealife, headed straight there to pick up a stretcher instead of a cage after reports suggested that the seal was a bit bigger than first realised.

Many thanks to Bev for excellent directions, because the one thing we didn't fancy was a scramble down a cliff face while the tide was quickly rolling in. It is a long hike down to the water at Ravenscar often down shear cliff face in places, we asked walkers and fishermen if they had seen any injured seals, while many had seen a few swimming around, none had seen any beached animals.

Once we were finally down will quickly located the red gas canister that Bev had informed us the seal was next to, and sure enough there it was (we estimate 3 month old grey seal). Straight away we could see the deep wound around the seals neck caused by the heavy monofilament netting. See photos. The seal was also coughing heavily and had mucus streaming out of its nose.

First off we tied one end of the sling up and tried to position it over the seals head, at which point the seal sprang in to life, biting at the sling and moving towards the water. Many thanks to the two fishermen that came over, to help stop the seal retreating into the sea. Finally we managed to get the fixed end of the sling over the seals head, and gently roll him over and getting the sling underneath him and securing him in place. That was the easy part.... now we had to lift the seal up the cliff, as our other route off the beach Boggle Hole, was cut off by the incoming tide. 40 minutes later and one hell of a struggle we finally had reached the top. The seal was then taken straight to sealife for assessment and medication.

With the seal hospital closed we could only use sealife as stop gap measure. Senior aquarist, Derek was there waiting for us. The seal was weighed 25KG, which was an excellent weight. The netting was removed and medication was given. Derek felt, because it was such a large seal and still very strong, that once the netting was removed He might be a straight catch and release. Even though the wound was deep, the animal was not bleeding. But after listening to the seals breathing, decided against it. Seal was left in hospital to recover before its move to East Winch. Not the best solution for an injured seal, a 6 hour car journey, but the quicker the hospital gets back up and running the better.

Myself and Nick would like to thank everyone involved, Bev, the two fishermen - sorry we didn't get your names - and the fantastic staff at sealife.

Stephen Routledge
Marine Mammal Medic

I received a call from Faye Austin at approximately 12.45hrs Saturday. Reports had come in of a badly injured seal on the beach below the cliffs at Ravenscar [East Yorkshire]. It was said to have monofilament netting embedded in its neck and was obviously in some distress. The first informant was not able to stay with the animal, but had left a bright red canister he had found on the beach, near it. I told Faye I would initiate the rescue team and would phone her to give a 'sit rep' when I had got the seal sorted out. Not having access to our vehicle - I began the usual phoning around to see which medics were available to help out. Eventually, Stephen Routledge and Nick Richardson experienced medics, offered to go for me.

The terrain at Ravenscar is appalling and the nearest vehicular access is approximately a mile+ down the beach from where the seal was reported. The only other option available is up the cliff path to the Raven Hall Hotel golf course. The path is extremely steep and the road a good mile from the top of it [across the golf course]. With this in mind I advised Steve he would be better to stretcher the seal, rather than put Him in a vary kennel, as He would be easier to transport. Steve and Nick called at Scarborough Sea Life Centre enroute to borrow their stretcher, as it was quicker than calling to pick ours up from me. Sea Life Centre staff offered first aide facilities for when the seal had been captured, but were unable to keep it at their hospital as it is still closed.

I got a call from Steve when they had located the seal [a miracle as the signal is poor from there], to say he was a Grey seal pup and it was rather fat but 'Lively' and needed treatment. A decision was made to 'lift' the seal and take it to SSLC for treatment and further assessment. Steve and Nick carried the seal up the cliff path as the tide had cut off the other access. It's a good thing they have healthy hearts because it's a hell of a climb. They then transported Him to SSLC. Derek [ aquarist on duty ]assessed the seal and confirmed it was a male. He said it was very lively and he felt he had had a 'near death' experience whilst tubing Him! He topped their indoor scales which only weigh up to 25kgs. Derek managed to remove the netting from around the seals neck which had then begun to bleed. He said there was a foul smell coming from the wound which would indicate it was infected. He gave Him a shot of antibiotic and asked me to arrange transfer to East Winch as soon as possible. I then phoned East Winch RSPCA Seal Hospital to see if they had room and asked if anyone was available to admit Him when he arrived. I told them His ETA was approximately 00.30hrs. The lady I spoke to was brilliant. She told me they could take Him and that they would wait for him to arrive. I called the RSPCA tasking officer to see if they had anybody available to transport the seal and they asked Alan Farr RSPCA Animal Collection Officer to call me. Alan told me Our seal would have to be relayed down to East Winch and said he could collect Him about 18.30hrs. Alan collected the seal at 18.30hrs and relayed him down to 'Becky' RSPCA ACO who then completed the transfer to the seal hospital.

I have telephoned East Winch today to get a progress report on both of our seals. Sadly 'Golden Eye' had to be put to sleep this morning. The vet x-rayed His head whilst he was under general anaesthetic and found he had a 'smashed jaw' consistent with 'blows to the head'. Our Saturday seal has been found to be 'Female'! They have named her NeNe, and she is doing well.

My Thanks to Stephen and Nick for an excellent rescue, to Derek Scales and SSLC staff for their treatment of the seal, to Alan Farr and Becky for transporting Him and a HUGE Thank You to East Winch for their time, dedication and continued support.

Simon & Beverley Drayton
Area Coordinators, Humberside & North Yorkshire