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


2006-04-24 14:03:53

Seal Rescue, Hendon beach, Sunderland

Air temp 14C. Windy and overcast. Choppy sea. Low tide.

I received a call from Sue at BDMLR Headquarters at approximately 3:50 pm advising that there was a seal hauled out on the slip way at Hendon, Sunderland could I attend? A member of the public had reported through the police that they had seen the seal on the slip way and that it had been there since 2pm. The MOP's concern was that if left, the seal would be harassed by the local adolescents who often ride noisy off-road bikes in the area.

I arrived to find what looked at first sight to be an undernourished grey seal, with no visible injury apart from a slightly skinned chin front flippers. Its gender could not be determined. It was about 1 metre in length and located half way down the slip way. The tide was out and between the slip way and the sea was about 40 meters of rock and concrete rubble forming (what I thought) was an insurmountable barrier to the seal. Trevor Weeks kept in constant contact via phone and I was able to pass on camera phone pictures of the seal for assessment by Trevor and James Barnett.

Sue White (at HQ) advised that she had called the RSPCA who were now on route and also Mary Carruthers, (Tynemouth Seal Accom). Sue also called Richard Ilderton (Tynemouth-Amble MMM Co-Ordinator) to attend. I was advised to monitor the seal from a distance until assistance arrived.

Mary Carruthers advised that the seal may not be necessarily undernourished as from my description over the phone, it sounded as if it was of the age where it had lost its puppy fat and was now in the process of building up muscle mass as it grew towards adulthood. Mary advised that it was probably best to leave the animal until the next high tide.

In consultation with James Barnett, Trevor Weeks (National Coordinator) decided that it may be safer for the seal if it was brought in or at least moved to a safer area. The area it was at currently in was a favourite haunt for adolescents and there was a genuine worry that the seal could be injured or could injure an inquisitive member of the public. It was highlighted by Trevor that the relocation of the seal could not be carried out alone and I would have to wait for RSPCA/MMM assistance to arrive. Once further assistance was on site Trevor asked for a full update on results of the closer inspection.

Richard Ilderton arrived at approximately 6.00 closely followed by the RSPCA officer, John (sorry John, I didn’t catch your sir name!).

We examined the seal at closer distance and Richard pointed out that the seal seemed to be well hydrated with wet 'spectacles' around the eyes, no discharge from eyes, ears or mouth and no obvious injury apart from the aforementioned superficial skinned chin and front flippers. The seal was 'banana-ing' (lying on its side with head and hind flippers raised off the ground), raising and turning its head. The seal showed very good mobility and a full set of very well developed teeth. John suggested that we take the seal's temperature just to be on the safe side and by very dint of the fact that he suggested it, he volunteered for it under the age old 'He who smelled it, dealt it' rule.

The seal, despite any ideas to the contrary, decided that it was now going to return to the sea and chose the path of least resistance over the shortest area of rock to a sandy section next to a sea groin. The seal made its way into the surf and cleared the breakers with seemingly little effort. It was observed for about 5 minutes approximately 75 meters out past the surf line. We watched the seal reappearing at intervals for a further 10 minutes before it disappeared from view completely, seemingly heading north. Richard and I stayed for a further 30 minutes on the slipway scanning the sea, surf line and beach for any sign of the seal.

Final phone reports were called in to Trevor Weeks and also Mary Carruthers who asked to be kept informed.

Thank you to:
Keith, the member of public who reported the seal seemingly stranded and who kept observation for over two hours.
Sue White at BDMLR HQ
Trevor Weeks (National MMM Co-ordinator. BDMLR)
Richard Ilderton (Tynemouth-Amble MMM Co-ordinator. BDMLR)
James Barnett BSc BVSc MRCVS (MMV. BDMLR)
John and Ash (ACO. RSPCA)
Mary Carruthers

Graeme Shaw
Assistant Coordinator, Tyne Tees Area