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


2006-09-16 12:17:55

Three for the price of one? Medics have a busy 24 hours in East Yorkshire!

It had to happen - our Area Coordinators resign, our Local Coordinator goes off gallivanting to dive in the Farne Islands, and we get three shouts in 24 hours!

To be fair, Alan still managed to do an excellent job of coordinating the first two from the other end of the phone, and it gave some very new Medics a chance to prove themselves. The first call was to a Common Seal pup at Skipsea on the Holderness coast : in the middle of Friday afternoon, not everyone was available but Joel, Freddie, Adele and Marnie all made it to the site. After assessing the situation and seeing no reason for immediate intervention, they decided that for the time being, watch and wait was the way to go, and sure enough, the seal got bored with all the attention and after a couple of hours decided to make its own way back to the sea. They never made it home, however, for the second call came at that moment, this time to a porpoise stranded just a little further down the coast at Withernsea, so off they went. While Alan was making the 'all hands' calls to all the other local Medics, he got another message that the porpoise had been 'returned' to the sea so apart from those already on their way (and almost there!) the call out was canceled. After talking to the members of the public who'd made the initial call, it seems that the stranded animal was probably a juvenile Harbour Porpoise; they decided to put it back into the water before help arrived so we cannot assess its condition but it was obvious that they acted with the very best of intentions and since there have been no further reports of stranded or dead porpoises in the area, we can only hope that it was successful.

Saturday morning brought a call to another seal pup, this time at Tunstall, halfway between Friday's two sites. Adele and her mother responded immediately, and I received the call while I was out but only five miles away so I was able go straight away and meet them there. The weather was far from ideal, foggy and with a very rough sea and a fast-incoming tide. It wouldn't be long before the remaining beach disappeared under the waves so we couldn't 'watch and wait' and had to make a reasonably quick decision. The seal was sneezing and coughing and its breathing was visibly laboured, and it showed a total disinclination to go back into the water – it was bone dry to the touch and when it did attempt to escape, it moved up the beach, away from the water! Once again a phone consultation was impossible due to lack of mobile signal so in view of the fact that it was both underweight and unwell we decided to take the pup in. Once we reached higher ground we managed to phone and Catherine, stuck at home with no transport (I had her car!) took over the job of coordinating veterinary and ongoing help. She spent some considerable time on the phone trying various contacts; Swanbridge vets agreed to treat the seal so we headed there, and meanwhile she tried to raise the RSPCA and Scarborough Seal Life Centre for help.

The seal weighed in at 11.5 kg and its breathing was audible and laboured. Its eyes were very runny (not just the normal 'wetness' one expects of a seal’s eyes) and it sneezed frequently. The vet took its temperature (photo left) and found it to be elevated but not alarmingly so, and it was obviously a very sick little seal. They were in the process of admitting it for treatment when Scarborough Sea Life Centre contacted us and said they had room for it in their seal hospital and could we bring it right away? We had to wait until the rehydration fluids (which had already been started) were finished and then Adele and I loaded the seal back up again and set off north to Scarborough.

Sadly, all our efforts proved to be in vain and the seal died just a few minutes short of our destination. We continued on to the Centre nevertheless but the seal was beyond help. The staff thanked us for our efforts (and even gave us a free cup of tea and tour round the centre and its wildlife rescue facilities.) On a happier note, the photos below show some of their recent successes, restored to health, plump and full of life and almost ready to be released.

Many thanks for all their efforts to : Joel & Freddie, Marnie and Adele for their sterling work running around the beaches, Catherine for doing an excellent job of manning the phones and sorting out all the contacts, and our coordinator Alan who tried to get away from us but couldn't! Thanks also to the staff at the Swanbridge Veterinary practice for their help and last but not least, to Scarborough Sea Life Centre.

Dianne Davies
BDMLR volunteer

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