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


2011-09-12 16:37:14

Cruden Bay Seal

Cruden Bay SealOn Wednesday 7th September at around 7pm I received a call from Grampian Police at Peterhead asking for help with a seal pup that had been spotted on the beach at Cruden Bay. It had blood around its mouth and was "grumpy and agitated". I spoke to an off duty Policeman whose son Martin had told him about the seal, Martin then gave me directions and a brief description of the size and injuries to the pup.

I contacted Ali Jack, Scottish National Organiser and Mark Gregory the out of hours coordinator, to inform them of the situation and tried to contact local medics but to no avail, so I called Mark back and told him Michelle and I would go to Cruden Bay with a seal box and medic bag asking him to put out a bulk text message to both Buchan and Aberdeen Medics. I received responses from Angie Long and Kurtis Toy, sadly neither had transport and we were unable to pick them up as we needed to get to the beach before it got dark to give ourselves the best chance of finding the pup.

We arrived at Cruden Bay by 9:45pm and reported to Mark as on the beach. Carrying the seal box and other kit and as per our directions, a 45 minute walk of over 2.5 km, and a clear moonlit sky we found the pup at the far end of the beach (why is it always the far end of the beach?). It was however slightly more than a pup, identifying it as one of last season's Grey Seals about 10-12 months old, over 4 foot in length, fair body condition but caked in sand and moulting badly. It had blood staining around its mouth and on its underside near the front right flipper, and as mentioned was indeed grumpy. I called Jamie at the Highland Seal Hospital at Skarfskerry, and described the injuries as best we could see by torchlight. We decided that I would try to get a better look at the injuries prior to making the final decision whether to take it up to Jamie, during this attempt using a towel which I later or rather sooner realised was too small, I sustained a bite to the arm. Undeterred and working on adrenalin we managed to get the seal into the box and secured the lid with the straps. During this the seal had coughed up some nasty looking phlegm tainted with blood from its mouth, adding this information to the other cuts and blood staining from its front flipper we decided we would take it up to the seal hospital rather than treat the cuts on scene.

Now for the big task of getting him back to the car, first thing was to check my arm in which we found three puncture wounds, one on the top and two underneath. Two of them were deep, caused by the canine teeth. We gave the area a clean with antiseptic wipes and headed back.  We managed to carry the box stopping every 20-30 paces for rest, eventually after midnight we reached the car and loaded our new friend in the back. I sent messages to Ali, Jamie and Mark to say we had left the beach with the seal and set off for home, with a slight detour to A&E. Eventually at 3am after an hour of being looked after at  Dr Grays Hospital at Elgin, we made it home, secured the seal in the holding area, showered and grabbed a few precious hours sleep.

All too early the alarm went off and I was back in the car and off up the road to deliver the seal to Jamie, arriving at Skarfskerry around 10am I was met by Heather, Caleb, Alex and Hanna.  He was rinsed down, Jamie showed us how you catch a larger seal without getting bitten, using the biggest towel you can get your hands on and also having a spare. With him secured and calmed we carried out the assessment, cleaned his wounds and got him settled in.

After getting some antibiotics and a dressing change it was time to head off again, back home to my own bed and an early night.

Thanks to everyone involved for their help and support, special thanks to Jamie for constantly being at the end of the phone whenever required and the doctors and nursing staff at Dr Grays for cleaning me up and filling me with iodine to prevent infection.

Martin Boon (Boonie)
BDMLR Medic and Buchan Coordinator

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