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


2006-08-13 11:36:07

Seal rescue -Tunstall, East Yorkshire

The initial call came through around 10.30 a.m. and, it being Sunday morning, available medics were hard to find! Dean Robson was the first to respond and first on the scene and discovered that, far from having to go and find the seal, it was surrounded by people and dogs so his first priority was to persuade them to step back, give the poor thing a bit of space and let him get on with his job! He also put out a call for assistance and my daughter Catherine and I started to collect together an improvised 'seal kit' and went out to join him.

Mobile phone reception on the Holderness coast is notoriously poor so we had to communicate through Alan Stewart, the Hull Area Organiser, and eventually met up with Dean on a cold and windy beach, where he was standing solitary guard over the seal as the initial crowd, having got cold and bored, had dispersed. The seal was just below the high tide line and it was low tide, which was just as well as the wind was still gale force and the seas were very high with surf pounding the beach. It proved to be a young Common seal, about two feet long, and was thin, with a visible neck and pelvis, and very 'flat.' It made no attempt to escape and initial examination showed its muzzle to be swollen at one (right) side and it had blood all around its mouth, with a sore or abscess on its chin. Dean had heard it coughing and sneezing and its breathing was visibly laboured, so we made the decision to take it in. We contacted Alan (we had found that there was a weak signal at the top of the slipway) and he put in motion the chain of contacts for the Swanbridge vets and the RSPCA, having already established that there was 'no room at the inn' at Scarborough Sea Life Centre for our patient.

The seal proved easy to capture and although it did make one attempt to bite it was quickly overpowered and transported in our improvised 'seal bag' (which looked suspiciously like a big blue Ikea bag – ideal for this job but I don’t think it would have contained a feisty, bigger seal for long!) It did manage to escape from the bag while in the car but was then content to just lie there, sneezing at intervals.

Alan met us at the surgery and the seal was weighed (a mere 11 kg - a long way below its ideal weight) and admitted by the vet. nurses, the vet himself being away on another emergency call. Dean, having been the first on the scene, had the honour of naming the seal: Lewis (to be changed to Louise should our initial sexing prove to be wrong!) We then settled him into a cage to await the vet for assessment, treatment and an overnight stay, ready for transportation to East Winch the following morning. Meanwhile, Bev had finally been reached and seemed both pleased and relieved that everything had gone according to plan!

Monday 14th: the seal has been assessed, had initial treatment and declared fit to travel, so Adele (another local Medic) offered to transport it to Grimsby from where it was collected by the RSPCA for transport onwards.

Many thanks to all involved: Dean, Catherine, Alan, Bev and Adele, and congratulations to Dean for his first rescue!

Dianne Davies
BDMLR volunteer & Marine Mammal Medic