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


2009-06-10 14:47:40

Busy weekend for Newcastle Region

Seal pupI took a call on Sunday (7th June) from a member of the local Coastal Rescue Team, advising me that a member of staff from the local council had reported a dead seal on Cullercoats beach, and wanted it checked before they could arrange disposal. We both made our way down to the coast to have a look, but before I could get out of the house, on call coordinator Alex called to say there was a seal on the shore in Collywell bay, Seaton Sluice, Northumberland that had been reported to her by the Police, and could I pop along and have a look.

The Cullercoats seal was an adult, and had been dead for some time. Both head and tail end were missing, and it was impossible to ascertain any obvious cause of death. We took measurements and pictures, and then advised the council employee that it would need something with a fairly large bucket to move it, and to be careful!

We were met on the beach by Lifeguard and prospective Medic Cath parks, who along with her friend, came with us to have a look at the Collywell seal.

On arrival there was a large group around a very unwell grey juvenile. It was laid on its back, breathing rapidly, and shivering. Discharge from eyes and nose, and not paying any attention to the people around it, one of whom told me she had stroked it! (I told her to wash her hands thoroughly as soon as she could)

An extensive assessment of this female seal, named locally as ‘Sam’ got me wanting it off the beach as soon as possible.

The RSPCA had been contacted to take it off my hands once I had it safe off the beach, so it was transferred into my car for transport.

It was a short while after I was informed that the local RSPCA inspector was of the opinion that this seal was fine and didn’t need to come in. I disagreed.

Alex put extra time in to confirm a vet to look after our lethargic patient, and it was taken to Blythman vets in Gosforth (Newcastle) for immediate treatment.

Despite prodding and poking, injections and cannulation for fluids, the seal was still barely reacting. Re-named 'Splashy' by the staff, it was an in-patient for two nights, with very poor recovery, until transport down to Scarborough Sea Life by David and Wayne Wilson.

The next afternoon I received a call from Alex reporting a live dolphin stranding at Blackhall Colliery, Hartlepool. Graeme Shaw, Lisa Shaw (who stood well back and just provided gentle cheerleading) Adrian Hardy, Tracy Hardy and Max Ling all made their way to the animal, but sadly it had died prior to their arrival. It was identified as a 2.1m Male White beaked dolphin, with pictures taken. Due to the weight of the animal, and the location, it was impossible to remove it to a point where it could be collected for PM, so was left on scene.

On Tuesday afternoon I took a call from a member of the public reporting a deal possible dolphin on Seaton Sluice beach, just north of Collywell Bay in Northumberland. As I was at work I contacted medics to see if anyone was willing to attend. Cath Parks jumped at the chance to walk the beach, and made her way there. During her search, despite not finding the deceased porpoise (identified by picture sent my initial caller) she did stumble upon the remains of a 7.5m long Minke whale that had been washed ashore on Blyth beach. I attended after work and found a fairly well decomposed Minke, missing its head, lain on its back on the high water mark. Northumberland council were made aware, and once I had given a talk on very basic whale anatomy and behaviour to the public crowding around it, I made my way home, praying not to see Alex's phone number on my next incoming call…

Richard Ilderton
Newcastle region coordinator

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