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

News

2005-03-30 15:52:29

Net entangled grey seal pup found near Newquay, Cornwall

Glenn Boyle, Curator of Animals at the National Seal Sanctuary in Cornwall, contacted Coordinator Dave Jarvis on the 28th regarding a net entangled seal that had been seen near Newquay late in the day and reported to him. Apparently the net was causing the animal some mobility problems, as it was wrapped around its neck and dangling back around its foreflippers.

Acting on this information, Coordinator Tim Bain and myself decided to search for the seal yesterday, the 30th, in the area it had been seen. After exploring the many crevices and caves on both sides of the beach Tim eventually located it in an intertidal cove just next to the main beach. Access to the cove was only possible via climbing over a rocky outcrop, and the tide was only just low enough for us to dodge through a gully on to the beach.

However, we were faced with a dilemma. Although we had a towel and a stretcher to catch and carry the seal, it was over a mile walk uphill back to the car park and we didn't have a cage to transport it in. To make matters worse, mobile phone signal on the beach was extremely poor, and the quickest way to get a decent signal was to climb back over to the beach and back up onto the top of the surrounding cliffs, but with it coming up to low tide, we had to act fast if we were going to be able to rescue the seal before the chance passed us by.

Deciding that a chance like this may never occur again, Tim and I evaded the waves (mostly), and got into the cove undetected - except [Coordinator Tim Bain, keeping the rescued pup subdued just prior to being moved into a cage for transport, holds up the net that had been entangled around his neck and started to cut into.] for a couple of adult seals that were taking great interest in us from the safety of the surf. Tim readied the towel and we quietly skirted the tide line to get as close to the seal as possible without alerting it to our presence, and to cut off its escape route to the sea. Rounding the outcrop, we expected the seal to be fairly weak and unable to put up much of a fight. How wrong we were! Faced with a set of large bared teeth, we resorted to the 'distract and jump' tactic. While waving my welly-clad foot in it's general direction but out of its reach, Tim circled around it to get into a good jumping position, but the pup wasn't having any of it, seeming extremely annoyed that we had disturbed it! Finally though, we prevailed. With Tim now comfortably on the seal and with the head safely ensconced within the towel, the minutes left on the clock continued to tick down. Before jumping the seal, it was extremely obvious that the animal was severely underweight, dehydrated and had ruckly breathing, and after jumping, it was also very warm to the touch, leaving us both very concerned about the young seal's possible other health problems. We decided it would be best to get it to the National Seal Sanctuary as fast as possible, so leaving Tim and the pup in the cove (still closely watched by the two adults offshore) I raced back over to the main beach and scaled the cliffs to call for assistance.

Coordinator Dave Jarvis responded to the call, and he, with Medic Lesley Jarvis, picked up a cage from the Seal Sanctuary as they were nearby at the time. Climbing back over to Tim, we secured the pup in the stretcher and slowly but carefully carried the pup over the rocks to the safety of the main beach, with a short stop for a dunk in a rockpool to cool it down a bit. However, our problems didn't end there. The beach was fairly flat, meaning that the turning tide would soon reach us, so we carried the pup a couple of hundred yards up the beach, about half its length. Once in a safer location, we made a more thorough assessment of the pup's condition and removed the net from around its neck. Apart from small cuts to the corner of its mouth and on one of its rear flippers, the only other notably injury was a long, shallow gash across the animal's neck caused by the netting. We also recorded its temperature at 38.5C. To minimise stress until the cage and the other Medics (Dave Jarvis, Lesley Jarvis, Phil Jarvis, Bex Allen, Angela Nash and Mike Skelly & family) arrived to help, we requested all nearby dog walkers either gave us a wide berth, or put their dogs on leads until a respectable distance away. Thankfully, all of them were more than happy to oblige.

Once most of the Medics had arrived, we transferred the pup into the cage and began relays carrying it up the hill to the car park, meeting with Mike and family on the way. Back in the car park, the cage was loaded into Dave’s car, and he, Lesley and Tim transported it to the Sanctuary, where he was named Gannel, due to the nearby river of that name at the rescue location. He weighed in at 27kg and is thought to be about 3 months old.

The latest news is that the ruckly breathing has now developed into a cough, which he is being treated for, and his temperature has come down into a more normal range (around 37.2C). The gash on his neck has been thoroughly cleaned by the Animal Care Team and should heal over quickly. He also continues to be a bright and feisty little chap and is eating half fish already and will be progressing on to whole fish later today (31st).

Medic Dan Jarvis
BDMLR West Cornwall
(Newquay - Land's End - St Austell)