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


2008-11-11 10:17:25

Adult seal in poor condition euthanased, Cornwall

Grey sealIn the early evening a call was received from Faye Archell on the Out of Hours BDMLR hotline regarding an adult seal hauled out high up the beach at Porthluney Cove, near Mevagissey. It apparently had very bad eyes and was unresponsive.

Coordinator Dave Jarvis along with Medics Lesley and Dan Jarvis and Kristy Flowers arrived in the dark at the isolated location and began to look for the animal, quickly locating it to one side of the beach near the high tide mark. It was quite obviously very malnourished and the eyes were indeed badly ulcerated and inflamed, probably causing complete loss of vision. She did not respond, nor seem aware, when the Medics approached more closely to assess her further, giving more cause for concern. Other minor and superficial injuries could be seen across various parts of the body. Contact was made with BDMLR Veterinary Coordinator James Barnett and requested that he attend to give his opinion on the course of action to take.

When he arrived he agreed that the unfortunate animal should be put to sleep to prevent further suffering, so capture equipment was gathered from the car, consisting of an A-frame pole set with a net strung between them and a towel, while James readied a lethal injection. Dave and Dan caught the seal with little resistance, which quickly subsided. Dan took up a position on top of the animal keeping the head covered with a towel and low to the ground, while Kristy, Lesley and Dave helped to keep the rear end steady for James to administer the injection.

Once this had been completed, the seal took her last breath and she started to exhibit slight tremors for a few moments. James checked for a heartbeat with a stethoscope and then gave a further injection to be certain that she had passed away. Another check with the stethoscope confirmed that her heart had stopped and that she had now died. Her body was taken for post mortem examination at Veterinary Laboratory Agency Truro. James carried out the post mortem and the malnourished seal was found to have chronic ulceration in both eyes, a significant gut parasite burden and widespread hair loss. Her very poor body condition may be due to a combination of significantly reduced vision, although this sense is not essential in locating food, and possibly inadequate body fat reserves to sustain her while feeding her last pup. Further investigations are ongoing to rule out other possible causes and investigate the reason behind her excessive hair loss (grey seals do not normally moult until the spring).

Dave Jarvis
Director and Cornwall Area Coordinator
British Divers Marine Life Rescue