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


2015-03-04 15:05:45

Sandy’s story – a juvenile female grey seal in Cornwall

Sandy and Cornwall Seal Group
Sandy was first identified from a photograph taken by Vic Hall at the North Cornwall haul outs on 04/11/13 when she appeared to be at least 2 years old (from her size compared to other seals on the beach.) She was already severely entangled, possibly from a very young age, but it could not be determined if she had any entangling materials still present due to the distances involved for taking photos at this site.

Sandy and BDMLR
Sandy survived her severe entanglement injury for another 16 months before she travelled to West Cornwall. By this time she had lost her entanglement and was in moderate body condition at the age at least 3 and a half years old. Sandy was found by members of the public on 23/02/15 barely alive lying on Hayle Beach in a pretty unresponsive and hypothermic state. They called the Cornish Seal Sanctuary who alerted British Divers Marine Life Rescue. Dave Jarvis attended and found a juvenile female grey seal being buried in wind blown sand.

He called for back up medics and the CSS team with a large rescue cage. Whilst waiting for everyone to be present and in place, five medics stood as a windbreak for over an hour in the freezing cold, force 6 north westerly, to keep the blasting sand from piling up against Sandy and going into her eyes, nose and mouth. Sandy was rescued and taken off Hayle beach by a team of eight to St Ives Bay holiday park.

Sandy and Cornish Seal Sanctuary
Assessed by vet Paul Riley, it was decided to give Sandy a chance of recovery. With the considerable care of the animal care team led by Jenny Lewis, Sandy survived her first night at Gweek and appeared to be making some progress. She was found dead on her second morning there (26-27/02/15). She had died within 48 hours of rescue.

Sandy and the Environment and Sustainability Institute
James Barnett post mortemed Sandy on 27/02/15 at Exeter University, Penryn Campus assisted by Kelly Astley, Dan Jarvis and Sue Sayer. By this time, Sandy had

• A moderate body condition

• A 100% linear encircling scar around her neck that was thickened skin under her neck, and a constriction from shoulder to shoulder about 1cm deep at the sides and 3cm deep at the back of her neck. The scar tissue at the back of her neck extended a further 2cm into her healed blubber.

• Probably previously been entangled in monofilament fishing gear.

• Extensive emphysema over her right thoracic wall, around her heart and around and inside her lungs.

• An apparently enlarged and thin right side to her heart.

• Congested lungs, lymph nodes and adrenal glands.

• At least three types of parasites – 2 types of worm and nasal mites.

The precise cause of the gross changes seen on post mortem is being investigated further though histopathology and bacteriology.

Sandy is one of over 250 entangled grey seals suffering as a result of entanglement in lost fishing gear in Cornwall. She was one of the many unlucky ones for whom entanglement contributed to a premature death.

Many thanks to all who responded and did their best for Sandy.


Sue Sayer
Cornwall Seal Group and BDMLR

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