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


2006-12-09 16:21:49

Grey Seal Pup Rescue - Filey

After the recent stormy weather it was inevitable that the casualties would start to hit the beaches, so I wasn't surprised to get a call out on Saturday morning, but two seals simultaneously? With Catherine and I the only medics available to respond immediately, we said we’d head for the nearest first and see what happened. While we were heading for Bridlington and discussing the logistics of attempting to lift and transport two seals from different locations (one in the tailgate and one on the back seat?) we had a message to say Freddie and Joel would be able to respond in an hour or so, so I contacted Freddie and asked her if they could take the Bridlington call and we'd carry on to the seal at Filey, which was further but as we were already on the road it seemed the sensible thing to do. She agreed, so we carried on to Filey and our first Grey of the season.

We had the phone number of the fisherman who'd made the initial call and was very worried about the pup so Catherine rang him with an ETA while I drove; he was very pessimistic about the pup’s chances when she told him an hour and a half, but it was the best we could offer. Once we reached Filey, she rang him again and he 'talked us through' the town and onto the beach (yes, literally - it was low tide, the sand was hard and dry and we drove right across to the Brigg where our casualty lay!) At first I thought we were too late, and the fisherman and off-duty coastguards who were keeping the public and their numerous dogs away said it had just died, but we noticed slight movements of its flanks as it lay on its side against the rocks so Catherine checked it out and said it was still breathing and she could feel a pulse. I rang Helen at Scarborough Sea Life Centre, told her the seal was critical and she said to bring it in right away. Catherine picked it up – it made no resistance but at last opened its eyes - put it in the car and we drove off for Scarborough.

Helen had a pen in the seal hospital ready and waiting so he was checked in immediately, and not a moment too soon : he was severely hypothermic – his temperature was too low to register on the thermometer – so the heat lamp was switched on, and he was underweight (40 inches long but only 13.5 kg) and inevitably dehydrated. His breathing was shallow and wheezy, and just after we got him into the hospital pen he started to cough violently and we all thought we were losing him, but he suddenly coughed up a large amount of phlegm and general rubbish (but no sign of any blood) and seemed to feel a bit better for having got that lot off his chest! His nose and eyes were runny and he was also covered with superficial cuts and abrasions on his body and flippers, many of them infected, plus two small abscesses on his back. Helen tubed him, gave him multivitamins and glucose and then put him on an IV drip before contacting the vet to sort out antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. Everyone was cautiously optimistic about his chances so we’re keeping our fingers crossed for him : going with the current theme of “Old-fashioned sweets” we christened him Werther and when we eventually left we were glad to see him awake and not quite as close to death's door as we’d found him!

After initial treatment and just prior to having the IV drip inserted – looking a little better

Special thanks must go to Pip, one of Filey's local fisherman who found him and made the call for help – his concern for the pup was wonderful and heartening to see - and his coastguard and RNLI colleagues who also helped while waiting for us to arrive.

Many thanks also to Helen and the staff at Scarborough Sea Life Centre for their support and all their hard work.

Dianne & Catherine Davies
BDMLR volunteers and Marine Mammal Medics