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


2006-06-06 10:41:45

Seal checked at Hartlepool

6 June 2006
Hartlepool Beach
Air temp 19C dropping to 14C at evening
Light breeze. Mostly sunny

I was contacted by Trevor Weeks who advised that there was a grey seal reported injured at Hartlepool beach. Trevor sent me contact details of the person who called it in, a Mr Keith Taylor.


En route I spoke to Keith who advised that the seal had been on the beach for well over 24 hours and had variously been harassed by dogs and people.


Upon arrival I found that the seal (approx 1 year old and male) seemed to favour lying on only one side. Otherwise, mobility seemed ok. He could move his head around fully and was as feisty as any grey could be. There was no blood or discolouration around the nose or mouth and the eyes were clear and wet. I was concerned about the large amount of fur that had been lost on the seal’s neck, flanks and back. Lisa Starks (MMM) arrived shortly with a camera phone.


Photos were taken and sent to James Barnett, who was concerned by a seemingly swollen left shoulder and the propensity for the seal not to want to lie over on that side. James advised that this may be a dislocation or an abscess under the skin.


After much consideration of the photographs James advised it would be best to bring the seal in for close examination and observation.


Richard Ilderton brought down a vari-kennel and David Wilson (MMM) and his son Wayne (MMM) volunteered to take it to Scarborough Sea Life Centre where Bev Drayton had arranged at very short notice to have the animal inspected and accommodated.


The seal was put into the vari-kennel using 'Plan B' technique. Richard Ilderton advised in detail a textbook plan capture of the seal and everyone was given a specific role in the capture. The team ‘'read back' their individual instruction/role so we were all clear on who would do what.


David and Wayne would keep the seal visually occupied and block any possible escape route to the sea while Richard would jump the seal. I would come in behind and put retraining weight on the seal so that Richard could take his leg from the side of the seal and still hold the towel around its head. Lisa would hold open the vari-kennel door.


Unfortunately no one told the seal about 'Plan A'. He was within earshot but Richard does have a quiet speaking voice.


Richard threw the towel. The seal proceeded to shred the towel and make a break for it down the beach hissing and growling and snapping at anything in its path. Unfortunately (for me) I was that 'anything in its path'. The seal ran towards me (yes they can bloody run!) and I, showing great presence of mind, ran backwards away from it.


I have since found out that a seal can run forwards faster than a frightened man can run backwards. The seal gained on me rapidly and proceeded to snap at my upper thighs and genital area. Showing great presence of mind (and probably a protective instinct) My fiancée Lisa managed to get the cage between me and the seal. The seal flew into the cage so hard it banged its nose... The door was snapped shut and we had a captured seal.


For a seal with a suspected duff shoulder it really could move. I should have spotted that there and then, reported it in and saved a lot of people a lot of time, money and hassle. Alas I was too stupid to do so.


The seal was transported down to Scarborough where we met up with Bev and Ryan Drayton, who had gone to the trouble of arranging accommodation at the Sea Life Centre. Sea Life staff Lynsey and Clare arrived and carried the vari-kennelled seal into the centre, shaming all of us wimps who didn't want to touch the cage because the seal had filled it with wee and poo.


Lynsay, Clare and Bev then showed us exactly how a seal should be handled and details recorded. Lynsey and Clare did a textbook capture with a towel (years of experience) and managed to administer relevant treatment to the seal despite it being very aggressive and very strong. It was breathtaking to watch and certainly nerve wracking.


At this point it was pointed out that the seal was very definitely healthy and the fur loss down to bare skin was not unusual. It was as this point I realised how much trouble I had caused to all of the BDMLR volunteers and Sea Life Staff. To say I felt stupid and embarrassed is an understatement.


The seal was released the next day after being transported back from the Sea Life Centre to Hartlepool. I am not sure who carried out the transportation but I would to thank them for doing so.


Thank you and apologies to:


Keith Taylor
David Wilson (MMM)
Wayne Wilson (MMM)
Lisa Starks (MMM)
Bev Drayton (Regional Area Co-ordinator)
Ryan Drayton (MMM)
Trevor Weeks (National Co-ordinator)
James Barnett (RCVS BDMLR)
Richard Ilderton (Regional Area Co-Ordinator)
Lynsay and Clare at Sea Life Centre


Graeme Shaw
Assistant Coordinator Tyne Tees Area