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


2005-10-21 11:42:04

Seal Pup Rescue, Challaborough, South Devon

On receiving the call from head office at 4:30pm on Friday 21st October, I immediately got my things together and headed out. I had been told that we had a seal pup on the beach at Challaborough, fully moulted and independent, but that it appeared to be taking a bit of a battering in the surf. The initial advice was to make an assessment, but that it just might need moving and possibly monitoring over the coming days. The weather in Plymouth was relatively calm, and clear with the sun low in the sky, a nice evening by all accounts, so I wasn’t really prepared for the conditions on the beach. On arriving I was greeted with 5ft surf and a severe onshore wind and as if that wasn’t enough, an incoming tide! Mike Skelly (Plymouth Medic) was already on site and had located both Sal, the lady who had placed the call to us and the seal pup. After initially observing the pup and speaking to Sal, who had been there for the last three hours, it was clear that Mum was nowhere in sight and judging by the size and grey coat we made the assessment that the pup was probably independent of Mum. After discovering that the beach had no mobile reception, the guys in the seaside café permitted us to set up a telephone base there, where numerous calls were made between myself, Alan Knight, James Barnett and Dan Jarvis in Cornwall, who was on alert in case we were bringing the pup into Gweek.

Following the assessment where the female pup made no attempt to get away, or even to bite us, Mike and I decided she needed to be brought in for a thorough assessment and rest bite from the increasingly bad weather conditions. After a quick conversion of my recently “cleaned” car to a seal carrier, we were off to Ivybridge where James was waiting to meet us. After administering fluids, antibiotics and listening to her lungs, James confirmed that we had indeed made the correct decision to bring her in, as he suspected she was either suffering from pneumonia or perhaps a bacterial or viral infection. From Ivybridge she travelled to Exeter before being collected by Shaun Clements, (Wildlife Supervisor, West Hatch) and finally taken to West Hatch for the night.

Shaun called me first thing on Saturday morning. Unfortunately she had not made it through the night. A gross post-mortem is due to be carried out to find out the exact cause of death. I’ve got to admit being my first seal rescue it was a steep learning curve and as you would expect all the more experienced medics were out of the region on Friday evening – however there has got to be a first time for everything, though if I’m honest my heart dropped as I heard she had not made it. I would like to thank Mike and his family for all their hard work and quick response on the night, James and Shaun for coming out, Alan and Dan for their advice, and both Sal for all of her dedicated observation and protection of the pup until our arrival and to Fryer Tucks Café on the Seafront who permitted us unlimited us of the telephone.

My car is now clean again and my dry suit and grab bag are ready once again, fingers crossed this years pups won’t need us again!

Lissa Goodwin
West Devon Co-ordinator

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