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

News

2005-09-15 10:43:26

Seal rescue, Leigh on Sea, Essex

It was coming up to regatta weekend in Leigh on Sea where about ten thousand folks descend on the old town. On Wednesday 14th September BDMLR received a call about a seal pup that was hauling out opposite the old town quay. The common seal pupping season is slowing down here now but we are still picking up underweight stragglers from that, but this little feller seemed about the right weight and seemed old enough not to be maternally dependent. But we were worried about him hauling out in such close vicinity to people, so we were asked by the Pier and Foreshore department to nab him and assess his condition anyway. He led us (Faye and Bob!) a slippery dance over the mud as every time we were ready to grab him he slipped into the partially flooded creek and slipped by us. We tried to scare him out into the major deep water channel where all his buddies are, but this provoked him in to "swimming towards us" and giving me an investigatory bite on my leg!

So Thursday was the day that we decided to turn up ready for anything this time, the problem was that when the three of us (Bob Archell, Diane Day and Mark Gregory) arrived at the quay the seal had gone! This had been happening for the last three days where he turned up and drew the crowds then disappeared off to the end of the creek for a few hours! A chat with Gary the fishmonger on the quayside and Silvia our Community Police Officer gave us the time the little rascal had fled and we realised that if we walked quickly after him down the creek there was a chance that we could catch up with him as the water drained from the creek. Ever tried to walk quickly in knee deep mud? It took us over an hour to catch up with him. Anyway it wasn’t long before he saw us and went for the creek, but this time the water was too shallow for him to swim away. He flopped along the creek bed with us in hot pursuit. He put up a bit of a feisty fight and then we manoeuvred a towel over his eyes and wrapped it around his snapping snout and he started calm down. It was an even longer walk back to shore with him in our seal net slung on poles over our shoulders and as we walked we all guessed at his weight. After phoning James Barnett and confirming that the cut off weight for a weaned pup we can release is 18 kgs (20 to 25 is better but at 18 kgs we could just relocate him into one of the established colonies out on the Thames sandbanks). He weighed in at 16kgs…..So what to do? A lot of telephoning then took place akin to negotiations over the release of hostages, eventually the RSPCA decided that they would pick him up from us but not until Friday morning….Taking the temperature of a 16 kgs seal, "Mr Snappy" I called him, in the confines of my garage was, well, exciting but we managed to keep him comfortable over night and bade him a fond farewell the next day. The regatta was by all events a great success and there were no harmful seal/human interactions to report!

Bob Archell
BDMLR Director