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


2006-11-25 15:28:05

Caithness weekend

On 25/11/06 a call was recieved about a seal pup on Reiss beach, close to Ackegill towers. Initially it was thought that this was a weaned pup that was already being monitored. However, the pup found was a grey seal pup, unweaned and about 1m in length and 15 kg in weight ( please correct me if my estimates are way off mark!). It was situated adjacent to Ackergill towers on a sliver of rocky beach. Immediately it was evident that the right front flipper was severley infected, swollen and exuding a bloody pus that was tinging his fur. His general attitude and posture were good, though he was covered in flies ( in other animals they would make an attempt to shake them unless morbidly ill. In seals I am not sure what is the normal behaviour, but will try to find out asap. I suspect that tolerating the flies were indicative of him not feeling at all well). Picking up the seal and a visit to the local vet was decided on, though he wasn't having any of it and tried to escape to the sea. Because he was visiting the vet, he was examined in detail when in the consultation room, so as not to subject him to two manipulations. On examination the flipper was found to have profound ulcerations where tissue abscesses had ruptured. The flipper itself was very swollen, draining a bloody pus and suspected of being fractured ( abnormal movement of the carpal bones and crepitation. The only indication in this situation would be amputation and it was decided that this was not in the interest of the welfare of the animal. It was humanely put down.

Good job Davey and Ju may well have not been the result we where looking for however we stopped the animals pain and suffering.

Call 2

David Sutherland and Karen Munro.

Richard called last night to say that a member of the public had spotted a small seal down at Sarclet Head with what appeared to be part of a fishing net around it's neck. Karen Munro had also been contacted by Richard, so we agreed to meet around 9 am this morning and to go and have a look at the little guy. The location of Sarclet Head didn't immediately spring to mind, but following Richard's instructions and using Karen's Ordnance Survey map we got down to the beach area without too much difficulty.

We were met by the member of the public who had found the distressed seal yesterday (also David) and he took us along the dirt road to a path overlooking the small beach/disused harbour. Surprisingly for Karen and I, we were greeted with the sight of 11 adult seals (including on big male) and 14 seal pups (most appeared to be unweaned). David showed us the distressed seal, and the netting, although only about two foot square, was very apparent and clearly attached around the seals neck. Other than the net it looked, from a distance, quite healthy. Karen phoned Richard and gave him a quick update. After some discussion about how best to handle the situation (was it acceptable to enter the beach given the possibility of disturbing the mothers/unweaned pups), it was decided that we should try and assist the seal.

David took us down to the beach and along the left hand side which consisted of a rock face. We decided that I would 'jump' the seal (not sure of the technical term for this?!), David would cut the net free, and Karen would bring up the portable kennel (if required), take pictures of events, and keep an eye on the adults. The closest adult seals moved down to the waters edge as we moved closer to the netted seal. It was in a good condition and apart from the net showed no signs of injury or illness. It was lying between two large rocks and this made it fairly easy to restrain it once I had placed the towel over its head. Six strands of netting were wrapped around the seals neck. David cut four of these without much difficulty but the last two strands were tight and required a little bit of time and care. Once the net was cut free and pulled from underneath the seal, a quick inspection showed no signs of injury from the net. We released it and it went straight into the water with an indignant backwards glance.

We walked back up to the path and had a look back down at the shore. All of the adults that had moved to the water line when we entered the beach had come back up to their pups. Richard arrived and introduced himself, and agreed that it was a good job. Very satisfying for us all.

Well done to you both for getting this seal back to where it should be health and i suggest far more happy.

Saturday night I received a call regarding a white coat pup sitting on a grass verge adjacent to the beach at Keiss. Even though it was dark and this beach is not the most accessible with the small amount of information we had, gave us cause for concern. Medics Jim Thompson, Karen Munro and myself decided to attend. It was in deed a cold and open spot where we came across the white coat. The pup had started moulting however very small at around 12kg for weaning and its mother was nowhere to be seen. I took some photos, which were sent to James Barnett and Jason Carter, and after a chat with both of them it was decided to leave the pup in place and visit it the following day.

Jim Thompson and Sarah Henderson visited the pup the next day at around high tide when mothers often seem to feed their pups. However mum was nowhere to be seen again on closer inspection in a more favourable light the pup had very sticky eyes and was under weight by age also it was dehydrated. More photographs were taken however we wanted to give the pup every chance to be found by its mother so decided to leave it in place and take advice. The photos where taken and sent via email to Jason Carter who consulted with Tony and the decision was made that due to weight, dehydration, and the fact that while isolated this spot was very busy as we had four separate phone calls regarding this pup in less than a day.

Sunday night Jim, Davey and myself took the dark walk again and lifted the pup with a seal bag, transferring it to a kennel when we got back to the car. The pup was overnighted in a pen inside my barn, needing warmth and fluids. It was today transported to Inverness where relay team has been set up to get it to the rehab unit.

In addition to those above I would like to thank Andy Ireland, Stacey, Natalie Simmons and Lynda Nicholson who where all involved in the transport relay.

Richard Bradley
Marine Mammal Medic