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Seals in Scotland



Seals & other Pinnipeds Page
Grey Seal, Halichoerus grypus, pups are born in autumn (September to November) in the eastern Atlantic and in winter (January to February) in the west, with a dense, soft silky white fur; at first small, they rapidly fatten up on their mothers' extremely fat-rich milk. The milk can consist of up to 60% fat. Within a month or so they shed the pup fur, grow dense waterproof adult fur, and leave for the sea to learn to fish for themselves. In recent years, the number of grey seals has been on the rise in the west and in the U.S.and Canada. 
Grey Seals can be seen hauled out on rocks, islands, and shoals not far from shore, occasionally coming ashore to rest.

Common Seal, Phoca vitulina, are solitary, but are gregarious when hauled out and during the breeding season, though they do not form groups as large as some other seals. Birthing of pups occurs annually on shore. The timing of the pupping season varies with location, occurring in February for populations in lower latitudes, and as late as July in the subarctic zone. The mothers are the sole providers of care.
Common Seals frequently congregate in harbours, bays, sandy intertidal zones and estuaries.


7 January 2020
Unfortunately, the Hooded Seal, Cystophora cristata, was found washed up dead.

1 January 2020
An under nourished male Hooded Seal, Cystophora cristata, announced his unexpected appearance on the mud flats at Toormore Bay, in County Cork, Ireland. Helen Tilson of Schull Sea Safari discovered the vagrant Arctic Hooded Seal in the morning and its identity became apparent when it growled loudly, which only the males of this seal can do. 

The Hooded Seal is an Arctic species and it is only the fourth recorded off Ireland: the other three were pups. It congregates to breed around Greenland and the Denmark Strait (between Iceland and Greenland) from June to August. For the rest of the year it tends to be a solitary animal.

16 November 2019

Bearded Seal
Photograph by John Moncrief Photography  facebook

A Bearded Seal, Erignathus barbatus, made a visit to Bridge End, Burra, in the Shetland Isles
BMLSS Bearded Seals

18 May 2018
A Bearded Seal, Erignathus barbatus, was spotted at Lerwick in the Shetland Isles. Bearded Seals are a non-migratory Arctic species that feed on molluscs including clams. Visits to the most northerly of the Scottish isles are rare and newsworthy.

Previous Report 2013

8 -10 March 2018

Photograph by Russell Neave
Click on the above image for a short video recording

A Walrus, Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus, made a visit to the sea around North Ronaldsay, (the most northern of the Orkney Islands),. The sea mammal was spotted by Lewis Hooper, a volunteer at North Ronaldsay bird observatory. it slowly cruised past The Lurn, close inshore, followed by a big flock of gulls before hauling out for a couple of minutes on a small beach

On the second day and the Walrus hauled out on the rocky beach for a day on the island of Sanday to the south.

The Walrus is an Arctic sea mammal and is only very rarely seen in the seas surrounding the British Isles. It feeds mostly on molluscs

" This is a young one. They are known to roam quite widely for some time before they return to the Arctic. Single individuals, usually males, have been spotted along the Norwegian coast in recent years. One moved in to rest on a small deck in a private marina in Northern Norway last winter, making the access to the boats a bit difficult for some days. Some years ago one even turned up along the Skagerrak coast, and almost made it in to Oslo, Norway."

Previous Report 2013
Shetland Vagrant Seals Reports

21 July 2016

A  pod of Killer Whales, Orcinus orca, swam close inshore at Gulberwick in the Shetlands (map) and killed two Common Seals, Phoca vitulina, with visible blood on the surface. There were three more seals that managed to avoid predation by hiding behind rocks while the female Orcas swam by repeatedly trying to figure out how to get at them. A truly epic experience!

Click on the picture for the video.

3 February 2015
New eyewitness accounts and forensic evidence have implicated the Grey Seal, Halichoerus grypus, in the bloody mutilation and death of Common Seals, Phoca vitulina, and Harbour Porpoise, Phocoena phocoena. Some of the latter apparently succumb after being ambushed and held underwater until they suffocate.

21 May 2013

Moulted Grey Seal at Seaford
Photograph by Barnacle Bill Simmons

Grey Seal at Seaford Beach
Photograph by Guy Bowes

A healthy Grey Seal, Halichoerus grypus, made a surprise visit to Seaford Beach, Sussex. Grey Seals are not residents on the shingle and sand shores of Sussex and it was out of its normal range. 

"There have been two near Seaford recently. The first was in April and was very old, underweight and blind. He had a few injuries from having hauled out over the rocks, but I think it was a combination of factors which led to him being euthanised. As mentioned in the report, this seal showed up at Hope Gap. 
The May sighting has been quite different. The seal was younger (we think about 3 years old). He showed up first in Sovereign Harbour on the 16 May 2013, moving along to Eastbourne, then Seaford. It stayed in Seaford for quite a while before moving on. This second seal was younger and not injured, he was  just moulting."

28 April 2013
A 250 kg adult Grey Seal, Halichoerus grypus, was discovered hauled out to the east of the Hope Gap Steps, which are located just west of the Cuckmere Haven at Seaford in Sussex. The seal was badly injured and ill and was euthanised. 

23 March 2013
A Bearded Seal, Erignathus barbatus, made an appearance at TBS Salmon farm in Basta Voe, in Yell in the Shetland Isles. This Arctic seal is a rare visitor to even the most northernmost Scottish islands.

Bearded Seal
Photograph by James Simison
Click on the image for a set of six photographs

3 March 2013
A Walrus, Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus, was spotted hauled out at Brides Ness, North Ronaldsay, the most northern of the Orkney Islands. It's thought to likely be a male due to the pinkish nodules on the neck and shoulders. The animal does not appear to have sustained any injury and could just be not used to encountering humans; probably why we got so close. The Walrus is an Arctic sea mammal and is only very rarely seen in the seas surrounding the British Isles. It feeds mostly on molluscs

Report and Photograph by Gavin Woodbridge  (BBC Radio Orkney) on facebook
with Fleur Warren and Mark Twitch Warren

"The sandy sea bed around North Ronaldsay has food for him too, they will take Spoots, Ensis, but are especially fond of Blunt Gaper, Mya truncata, and there's plenty around there." 

Comments by Martin Gray
"This is the first confirmed sighting since 1986 at Eynhallow in Orkney."
Comments by Lorna Whittle
North Ronaldsay Bird & Walrus Sightings
Vagrant Seal List for the Scottish Isles

19 February 2012
A Bearded Seal, Erignathus barbatus, was seen by lots of people on the beach at Monifieth (north shore of Firth of Tay) in the afternoon. Because of the scarcity of visits by this Arctic seal, it may be the same individual that was seen hauled out on a dock at Tayport just after Christmas 2012.

Report by Colin T Reid

                          Photograph by Sam Gibson

BMLSS Bearded Seals

27 December 2011
A Bearded Seal, Erignathus barbatus, hauled out on a dock at Tayport (on the south coast of the Firth of Tay, near Dundee), east Scotland. Its arrival followed a spate of storms across Scotland. 

Bearded Seal (Photograph by Sam Gibson)

A Bearded Seal was also seen at St. Cyrus (near Aberdeen) about 30 miles further north in November 2011. In view of the rare sightings of this Arctic seal around the British Isles it is likely to be the same one. 

Report and Photograph by Sam Gibson
Previous Report 

20 December 2011
A Hooded Seal, Cystophora cristata, was discovered on the beach at Chapel St. Leonards, Lincolnshire, was taken to the Skegness Natureland Seal Sanctuary. The explanation for this unexpected arrival may be because the seal had first been rescued by a Seal Sanctuary (Seehundstation) at Friedrichskoog in Germany (on on the Schleswig-Holstein North Sea coast) in August. 2011 and was fitted with a radio transmitter on its release. The eight month old pup was thin and exhausted after swimming all the way to Scotland and up to the Orkney Islands. If she had kept going she would have been on course to get home to Iceland. Unfortunately she turned round and headed south along the east coast of England and came to rest in Lincolnshire. 
The Hooded Seal is an Arctic species and even discoveries off the coast of Scotland, including the Orkney and Shetland Isles are rare. It congregates to breed around Greenland and the Denmark Strait (between Iceland and Greenland) from June to August. For the rest of the year it tends to be a solitary animal.

Skegness Natureland Sea Sanctuary News
Previous Report 2004

October 2010
Report on recent seal mortalities in UK waters caused by extensive lacerations

Seals in Scotland (Identification)

12 May 2009
On my way home from work I was amazed to spot a Grey Seal, Halichoerus grypus, in the heart of Glasgow City Centre on the River Clyde. The seal surfaced seven times in 45 minutes between the Albert Bridge and the nearby tidal weir at Glasgow Green. The seal, which was at least two metres long, appeared stranded and disorientated. It did not stray from a very small stretch of the river for the whole time I observed it.

11 - 14 July 2008
There has been a Grey Seal, Halichoerus grypus, in the River Great Ouse in Bedfordshire since Friday 11 July 2008 first spotted by fishermen at Kempston.  It was seen heading back towards the sea at Cardington Lock at 10:00 am on 14 July 2008. This is the first Grey Seal recorded in Bedfordshire (the first seal of any sort in Bedfordshire).

Image 1
Image 2

3 March - 26 May 2008 onwards

A Bearded Seal, Erignathus barbatus, was spotted at Loch na Keal on the Isle of Mull, a large island in the Inner Hebrides, western Scotland. The healthy seal had hauled itself up on to some dry rocks when it was first seen. Subsequently, it has been unpredictable in its movements. The Bearded Seal was first seen by David Woodhouse (Mull Wildlife Expeditions) on 3 March 2008.

Photograph by Rob Baxter
Report by David Sexton (RSPB, Mull)
19 March 2008 

Seal Photograph by Tony Thorogood (Photony)

A Common Seal, Phoca vitulina, swam up the River Medway in Kent as far as Allington lock which is several miles upstream of the Medway estuary mouth and is at the tidal limit. My understanding is that the seal was in the area for several days. I also understand that now it has gone further upstream to East Farleigh, as a result I believe the RSPCA were called but have left it in situ as it was not in any distress.

Report & Photograph by Tony Thorogood (Photony)

February 2008
Up until now it has been assumed that the Common Seals, Phoca vitulina, that we see along the Sussex coast are either from the Wash area or from the Chichester colony. Grey Seals, Halichoerus grypus, have been assumed to come from either further west or east. However a Common Seal tagged in 2007 by the University of Rochelle crossed the English Channel and swam east along the Sussex coast.

3 January 2008
A Grey Seal, Halichoerus grypus, was washed up dead on the shore at Sheringham in Norfolk with a large 35 cm wound reminiscent of a predator attack. The jury is out on the cause of the wound which could be as a result of fishing activity. Or it could be a deliberate attempt to mislead the Sun newspaper?

Report and Photograph on the Sun Newspaper Web Page
Discussion on the Marine Wildlife of the NE Atlantic Yahoo Group
More Discussion

The previous week in Kent we had a dead seal turn up with large wounds on it. They were circular and about 50 mm in diameter.

19 November 2007
A Bearded Seal, Erignathus barbatus, was seen at Chanonry Point area on the coast of the Moray Firth near Inverness, Scotland, having been there for about two weeks. 
Link to a Photograph

Report by Farnboro John on the Bird Forum
BMLSS Bearded Seal page

21 October 2006

Grey Seal, Halichoerus grypus, pup on the Farne Islands
Photograph by Kevin Boothroyd

The Farne Islands (National Trust) are home to around four thousand Grey Seals, and the birthplace of over one thousand seal pups in October and November each year. At low tide the seals will haul out on to the rocks.

24 February 2006
An oiled and very old and worn Grey Seal, Halichoerus grypus, was washed up on the rocky shore at Cuckmere Haven (near the Seven Sisters), East Sussex. It was at the end of its life span and was euthanised. 
NB: Grey Seals are almost unknown off Sussex, where the Common Seal is only occasionally seen.

Marine Life of Sussex News

15 November 2005
A Common Seal, Phoca vitulina, swam up the tidal area of the River Ouse in East Sussex up a narrow winding river for three miles to Southease (south of Rodmell) which is a tidal stretch. (The Ouse is tidal as far as Barcombe Mills, north of Lewes.) Common Seals occur of the coast of Sussex but they are only occasionals and not regularly seen off East Sussex, although there is a small rookery in Chichester Harbour in West Sussex, and they are seen around Selsey. 
Marine Life of Sussex

15 October 2005
I spotted a seal in the River Thames near Kew Gardens in west London. It was probably a Common Seal, Phoca vitulina. This part of the river is tidal up to Teddington

Report by Richard Clayton

25 August 2005
A seal was trapped in Sharpness tidal basin after the morning tide, and when the basin was levelled that evening for two ships to leave, it managed to escape up the dock. The following morning, the seal was sighted in the canal between Purton and Shepherds Patch, but luckily it found its way back to Sharpness where the lock gate men locked it back out into the river. The seal species was not identified.

30 April 2005 to 3 May 2005
A Bearded Seal, Erignathus barbatus, is seen at Easter Quarff (north of Cunningsburgh), Mainland, Shetland Isles.

Bearded Seal (Photograph by John Coutts)

Bearded Seal 
Photograph by John Coutts
Report on Shetlands Sea Mammal Sightings and Photographs 

1 April 2005 for 2-3 weeks
A Bearded Seal, Erignathus barbatus, was resident in the Ouse, Finstown, Orkney for 2-3 weeks from the beginning of April. It came as a great surprise to me when I was informed by a dog walker on the Ouse that she had come across an unusual seal asleep on the shoreline. On investigation I identified the seal as a juvenile female Bearded Seal. Bearded Seals are normally found all along the European, Asiatic and North American coasts of the Arctic Ocean. Its food consists entirely of bottom-living animals including shrimps, crabs, clams, whelks and bottom fish such as flounder. It is a very unusual seal to be found in the waters of Orkney.

BMLSS Bearded Seal page


24 June 2004
When Mike Rafter was at Inchmery Quay (at the mouth of the Beaulieu River), Hampshire, he saw a large seal resting on a floating landing stage and wondered if it had been driven inshore by yesterday's storms. Val Lowings responded to this query, saying .. 'A Grey Seal, Halichoerus grypus, has been using the landing stage on the Beaulieu River to rest on for quite a few months now. It is very tame and does not move when people/boats approach. The RSPCA seal expert has had a look at it and it seems quite healthy. I believe it is tagged, but not with a UK tag, so it is thought to have come from a 'sanctuary' in Europe'.

13 June 2004
A young female Hooded Seal, Cystophora cristata, was discovered on Dunnet Beach, Caithness, Scotland. It was treated by British Divers Marine Life Rescue who plan to return the seal to the Orkney Isles nearer its natural habitat around Greenland and the Denmark Strait (between Iceland and Greenland). 

Report by Alistair Jack of British Divers Marine Life Rescue
British Marine Life Rescue News Page (with the Full Report)

31 March - 2 April 2004
Another Common Seal, Phoca vitulina, ventures up the River Thames to the densely populated urban area at Lambeth and gets covering in mud, prompting a rescue mission by British Divers Marine Life Rescue
British Divers Marine Life Rescue News Page (with the Full Report)

26 March 2004
A Hooded Seal, Cystophora cristata, was discovered on St. Ives beach, Cornwall, by British Divers Marine Life Rescue. The Hooded Seal is an Arctic species and even discoveries off the coast of Scotland, including the Orkney and Shetland Isles are rare. It moults around Greenland and the Denmark Strait (between Iceland and Greenland). 
British Divers Marine Life Rescue News Page (with the Full Report)
Hooded Seal 2001 (SW Wales)

17 February 2004
A seal was spotted in the River Thames, London, by Richmond Bridge. It was about 120 cm in length. It was most likely a Common Seal, Phoca vitulina.

Report by Phil Stubbs

20 October 2003
A seal caused a bit of flutter when it was spotted a long way up the tidal River Thames, swimming eastwards towards the sea between Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge in a busy part of the city of London. This is less than a mile from the House of Parliament, Westminster.

Report by Lloyd Goodman

27 September 2003
An outlandish and completely unexpected addition to the Portland Island (Dorset) mammal list came today in the form of a Harp Seal, Pagophilus groenlandicus, that was found hauled out on rocks along the East Cliffs at the Bill during the afternoon; it remained there for three hours before being flushed off by the incoming tide. 
The Harp Seal is an Arctic species that is hunted (cf. culled) in the frozen north of Canada. 

Report by Martin Cade via John Young via UK Cetnet
Report on Portland Wildlife News
ORCA (Organisation Cetacea) Report with previous sightings

20 September 2003
When walking around Thorney Island, West Sussex, the number of Common Seals, Phoca vitulina, was 14, one more than has been previously recorded in Chichester Harbour

Report by Barry Collins on Ralph Hollin's Nature Pages

Phocine Distemper Virus (PDV)

17 December 2002
Between 11 December and 17 December there have been 47 dead seals reported around the UK bringing the total to 3682 since the beginning of the outbreak. The English deaths were down to 16 in the last week and are falling in Scottish seas after a sharp rise to 133 dead carcasses in the week ending 4 December 2002
It is the total number of dead seals reported, irrespective of what they died of and this recent rise of mortality in Scottish seals has probably got more to do with the Grey Seal pupping period than any extra spread of the virus.
Weekly Graph (epidemic started 14 August 2002)
PDV Update
Status Report 19

27 November 2002
Between 20 November and 26 November there have been 77 dead seals reported around the UK bringing the total to 3387 since the beginning of the virus outbreak.
PDV Update
Status Report 16
24 October 2002
Between 16 October and 22 October there have been 195 dead seals reported around the UK bringing the total to 2845 since the beginning of the Phocine Distemper Virus outbreak. 2451 of the seals have been found on the English coasts, with all but 24 of the above total discovered dead on the east coast. Confirmed cases are mostly Common Seals, Phoca vitulina, but also a few Grey Seals, Halichoerus grypus.
Sea Mammal Research Unit
Status Report 11 (with further details)

Sea Mammal Research Unit graph

11 September 2002
Between the 4 September and 10 September, 209 dead Common Seals, Phoca vitulina, were reported around the UK bringing the total to 1005 since the beginning of the Phocine Distemper Virus outbreak. 890 of these were from around the coast of England, predominantly from the Norfolk coast with smaller numbers reported from Suffolk, Lincolnshire, Northumbria and the East Riding of Yorkshire.

Sea Mammal Research Unit
Phocine Distemper Virus among European Seals 2002

13 August 2002
Tests on dead Common Seals, Phoca vitulina, found on carcasses from the coast of Lincolnshire and Norfolk have confirmed they died from the Phocine Distemper Virus. The British outbreak was confirmed by the RSPCA after five dead seals, including three pups, were found around the Wash.
News Story (Independent)

22 June 2002
The Phocine Distemper Virus has been identified as the cause of a new increased total of 461 Common Seals, Phoca vitulina, carcasses tested in Denmark, with a further 150 in Sweden and dead seals also recovered on the shores of the Netherlands. 
Ananova News Report

Any dead seals should be reported to the marine mammals stranding telephone line maintained by the Natural History Museum on 0207 942 5155 (24 hr answerphone).

Seal distemper (PDV) helpline number 08712 447999

> 10 June 2002
The bodies of more than 310 Common Seals, Phoca vitulina, have been washed up on the Danish and Swedish coasts, raising fears of an epidemic of the highly contagious and usually fatal Phocine Distemper Virus. The origin of the outbreak on the Kattegat and Skagerrak coast of Denmark and south Sweden prior to the breeding season is the same place as the 1988 epidemic which quickly spread to the east coast of England and killed about 2000 seals in the Wash (60% of the population). The first test was after high mortalities on the breeding seal population on the Danish island of Anholt (between Denmark and Sweden) 

The virus causes pregnant seals to abort their pups, pneumonia and nervous system abnormalities including convulsions.

BBC Norfolk Report
BBC National News Report

Orange Seals (an explanation)

Phocine Distemper Virus (Wikipedia)

       Grey Seal

Grey Seal

Halichoerus grypus

Shetlands Seal Page
This is an excellent page and an essential site to visit for anybody interested in the two species of resident British seals and records of vagrant seal visitors around the Shetland Isles. 
Seal Pup Rescue

20% of Grey Seal pups on the Isles of Scilly die in the first few weeks. 
(BBC 2 Natural World)

Shetland Vagrant Seals Reports

including the Pinniped News

United Kingdom's Conservation of Seals Act 1970

Seals and Sealions (Jaap's Marine Pages)

Marine Mammals of the English Channel Smart Group

Zoonosis: Marine Mammals to Humans 

Habitat Protection for Scottish Seals

1 August 1999
The Scottish Wildlife Trust paid tribute to the mystery benefactor whose cash gift enabled them to buy the 56-hectare uninhabited island of Linga Holm, in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, as a sanctuary for Grey Seals, Halichoerus grypus. Linga Holm is the world's third largest island-based breeding colony of Grey Seals with 2,300 pups having been counted there in 1997. 
Scottish Wildlife Trust at EMail: scottishwt@cix.compulink.co.uk

3 September
Area of Scottish isle to be reconsidered for protection - The Scottish Executive confirmed  that the South East Islay Skerries on the Scottish island of Islay are to be re-considered as a proposed Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for Harbour Seals, Phoca vitulina vitulina, under the European Community's Habitats Directive. The decision comes after a petition was presented in the legal courts by the owners of an Islay seal sanctuary against the Scottish Executive for its decision to drop the site from its list of proposed SACs. The seal sanctuary is based at the proposed SAC site and releases its seals into the site. (see immediately below)

March 1999
A marine Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for Harbour Seals,  Phoca vitulina vitulina,  has been proposed under the EC Habitats Directive for an area around the island of Sanday in the Scottish Orkney Islands. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has begun a public consultation exercise on the proposed site. 
For more information, contact Ross Flett, Orkney Seal Rescue, at
EMail: SelkieSave@aol.com or  Tel: +44-(0)1856-831463.

SNH also announced  that it has deferred notification of the South East Islay Skerries, an important area for the Harbour Seal, as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). SSSI designation is necessary to underpin designation as an SAC, for which the area has been proposed by the government as a candidate site. Although both the U.K. Sea Mammal Research Unit and the Advisory Committee on SSSIs specialist adviser supported SNH's view that the site met the requirements for designation, the decision to defer notification came after the objection and compilation of a report by a local landowner, Sir John MacTaggart.
For more information, contact Nancy Fraser, Public Relations
Officer, SNH West Areas, on Tel: +44-(0)141-951-4488 or John Robins, Animal Concern, at 
EMail: john@jfrobins.force9.co.uk or Tel: +44-(0)141-445-3570.
(Sources: Animal Concern; Orkney Seal Rescue; SNH)
Report from Paul Haddow, Pinniped News.

The Isle of May supports a breeding colony of Grey Seals, Halichoerus grypus. The site is the largest east coast breeding colony of grey seals in Scotland and the fourth largest breeding colony in the UK, contributing approximately 4.5% of annual UK pup production.
The Isle of May is a National Nature Reserve in the Firth of Forth on the east coast of Scotland.

JNCC Special Areas of Conservation Allocation
Establishment of Marine Environmental High Risk Areas (MEHRAs)

Seals in the Shetland Islands

Seals in the Shetland Islands 

Fast tidal streams near headlands are the areas  preferred by the very large population of 
Common and Grey Seal which live in the Shetlands in vast numbers. 

A Common Seal, Phoca vitulina, count by an aerial survey, carried out in 1993 showed the breeding sites were widespread around the Isles and there were 6,227 animals, about 22% of the UK's population.

The pups of both Common and Grey Seals were protected by law from exploitation in 1973.  The Grey Seal, Halichoerus grypus, has 108,500 animals or 40% of  the world population around the Great Britain, with 99,300 associated with breeding sites around Scotland and 3,500 animals associated with breeding sites all around the Shetland Isles. 

The Killer Whales, Orcinus orca, feed on both fish and seals; as Grey Seals inhabit the more rugged coasts and deeper water, they are more vulnerable to Killer Whale attack than Common Seals.  There have been numerous sightings of the Killer Whales chasing and taking them. One observer has watched the Killer Whales come up on to the rocks in front of him in pursuit of seals. It must have been an incredible experience. 

Report by Len Nevell 
from information supplied by the Shetland Sea Mammals Group

30 July 2001
Ringed Seal, Phoca hispida, was discovered at Cullivoe (Yell) in the Shetland Isles. It is only the second record for Shetland of this Arctic species. The only other definite record was one shot on Whalsay in 1968 (Berry & Johnston 1980). This species looks similar to the Common Seal, Phoca vitulina, and has probably been overlooked before, although they are still rare in British seas.  Their main distribution areas are the Arctic coasts of Europe, the USSR, Canada and Alaska, including Nova Zemlya, Spitsbergen, Greenland and Baffin Island. The Baltic population is the subspecies Phoca hispida botnica.

Report by Shetland Wildlife News
including a photograph.
Shetlands Seal Page
Ringed Seals Information

A one-eyed bull domesticatedGrey Seal called Nelson regularly visits fish wharf at Looe and has patrolled the southern Cornish coast for the last 25 years.

c. 11 September 2002
Bearded Seal, Erignathus barbatus, was found near Leenane (the entrance is Killary harbour), in south County Mayo, on the west coast of Ireland. This is the first record of this Arctic seal for Ireland. 

Report by Tony Murray via the Irish Bird Network
The female seal was found at the head of the fjord (Killary harbour) on a grass verge,
beside the bridge in Leenuan, (53° 60'N, 9° 50'W) calmly watching the children go to school. She is 1.5 meters in length, close to 60 kg (best estimate).
Report by Mac on the 
Marine Mammals of the English Channel Smart Group
The seal recuperated for two months in the Killarny Salmon Farm before being liberated into its natural Arctic seas courtesy of the Irish Navy who collected the Bearded Seal on 6 November 2002.
Full Report
Earlier (1999) Bearded Seal Report

Monogamous pairings of Grey Seals exist as well as the usual harems and rookeries.
Ref:  Battle of the Sexes, BBC 2 with David Attenborough, 10 February 1999. 
Seal Research

A Grey Seal pup was released from Dublin on 27 June 1999 with £5000 worth of satellite tracking equipment (the satellite tag) fastened to its head. The signals stopped off the Isle of Colonay, SW Scotland on 11 July 1999. The seal has never been heard of again and the tracking equipment has not been recovered. The seal dived to 130 metres (over 400 ft) and travelled 50 miles a day.
"A male Grey Seal was rescued by the Irish Seal Sanctuary on New Year's Day and with us for almost 6 months. He was released on June 27th from Dublin Bay, with a satellite tag attached (courtesy of Stena Line). 
He headed south for the first few days, before turning north again, passing Dublin, heading up to Strangford Lough, Belfast Lough, Larne, Fair Head, before heading over to the Mull of Kintyre and up along the west coast of Scotland up as far as Colonsay Island until the 11th July from where we have received no feedback.
It is a mystery to us what happened, but we feel that the problem lies with the tag and not the seal. We believe that it may have fallen off the animal. Bran (the seal) was doing particularly well in the days prior to the 11th."
"Thesatellite tag  is about the size of a mobile phone, weighs about 300 grams and its casing is made of translucent toughened plastic. It has an antenna about 15 cm (6 in) long and our name, phone no., address and e-mail is clearly visible within the tag.
The seal (minus the tag) should still be noticeable as it will still have the patch (approx. 8 x 6 inches) of epoxy-resin glue on its back and should be visible until the animal moults in about 6 months time.   Even though the tag is not presently relaying information, it is still recording data and if we were lucky enough to retrieve it will be able to find out what happened (we hope). "
Terry Flanagan, Irish Seal Sanctuary (also The Times 29/7/99).
EMail: flanagan@indigo.ie.

Sea Mammal Research Unit (seals)
Seal Mammal Research Unit (Satellite Telemetry)


Thames Estuary Seals

Mike Turner who takes sailing boat trips out to the sand banks in the Thames Estuary (usually Last Sand and Margate Sands off north Kent). He keeps a watch on the numbers of seals on the sands, which is his main tourist interest. We have seen about 70 plum Common Seals though the winter (2 years ago) we did not get out there the last two winters. Numbers drop in the Summer. There were about 25 on the NE Last Sand on Saturday, plus one Grey Seal on the Margate sands. Last summer there was one lone Grey there most of the time. We don't know if its the same one this year.

Report by Clive Askew (May 1999)

English Channel Seals

27 September 2003
An outlandish and completely unexpected addition to the Portland Island (Dorset) mammal list came today in the form of a Harp Seal, Pagophilus groenlandicus, that was found hauled out on rocks along the East Cliffs at the Bill during the afternoon; it remained there for three hours before being flushed off by the incoming tide. 
The Harp Seal is an Arctic species that is hunted (cf. culled) in the frozen north of Canada. 

Report by Martin Cade via John Young via UK Cetnet
Report on Portland Wildlife News
ORCA (Organisation Cetacea) Report with previous sightings

5 October 2002
Down the beach this morning to check the sea state for diving when I noticed I was being watched by a seal, bobbing in front of me. I first saw it in the surge five metres from the shore, in front of the new sea defence works, east of the Widewater Lagoon. A fisherman in a boat must have just passed the seal moments before I had arrived, maybe he gave the seal some titbits?
It was a Harbour (Common) Seal, Phoca vitulina, as I have photographed Grey Seals many times and this seal is different.

Report by Paul Parsons
via the Marine Wildlife of the North-east Atlantic Ocean Group
Seas off Sussex
Grey Seal Report 1996

23 August 2002
A seal, probably a Common (or Harbour) Seal, Phoca vitulina, is spotted off Lancing beach between the breakwaters. It was mistaken for a dog at first which is often the case. Seals are a rare sight off the mid-Sussex coast, but a few have been seen off Shoreham beach before. The nearest rookery is a small group of seals in Chichester harbour which are occasionally seen around Selsey (Seal Island).
The seal was also seen by Francis Garard in the same area sharing the same swimming space with her in the morning 8:40 am on 29 August 2002

Report by Stephen Savage
 Sea Watch Foundation
Southern Marine Life Rescue

25 November 2001
A seal was seen off Brighton beach, Sussex in the English Channel. This is outside the normal range of all species of pinnipeds. It was swimming between Brighton's two piers heading east to west. The seal swam at the surface and dived on occasions and appeared to be in good health. They have been seen as occasional vagrants before, notably off Shoreham a few miles to the west.

Report by Stephen Savage
Sussex Marine Life

3 June 1999
A pup has been born to a female on the rookery of a half a dozen Common Seals, Phoca vitulina, on the Pilsey Sands, Chichester Harbour, West Sussex. Seals are uncommon between the Isle of Wight and Dover on the English Channel coast, the total is only about 12.
Ralph Hollins Nature Pages
Common Seals in Langstone Harbour, Hants

Click on the image to make it bigger

A view of Cowes, Isle of Wight, by Luke Richards
If you look carefully you can spot the Common Seal seen in late January 2002

Channel Islands

Jersey Marine Heritage

Jersey Seal Project

Marine Mammals Portfolio including Grey Seals

Seal Pup Rescue (at Brighton, Sussex)

Welsh Seals
Grey Seals have been observed feeding on Sewin (Sea Trout) in the River Tawe that enters the Bristol Channel past a weir at Swansea.  Report from Dr Michael Isaac.

29 July 2001
AHooded Seal, Cystophora cristata,was washed on a Little Haven beach, Pembrokeshire, south west Wales and found a home at the Seal Hospital at Milford Haven. The seal was healthy apart from a small cut on one flipper. The Hooded Seal is an Arctic species and even discoveries off the coast of Scotland, including the Orkney and Shetland Isles are rare. It moults around Greenland and the Denmark Strait (between Iceland and Greenland). 

Report by Tony Pearce (via UK Wildlife)
Hooded Seal 1999
Seal Conservation Society
Hooded Seal Information

April 1999
Walrus, Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus was seen hauled out on rocks in County Mayo, Ireland for six hours. Lying within 100 metres of the busy coastal road and spotted as a "rock that moved", the resting walrus finally disappeared at dusk. There have been several walrus sightings at sea off County Donegal in recent winters, and a couple of walruses were reported to have been seen by surfers in Killala Bay in December. A dead walrus was found in County Kerry in January 1995
The Walrus is an Arctic species and is rarely seen even off Scotland and the Shetland Isles.

Report in the Irish Times & Pinniped News
Seal Conservation Society
Seals Update (Autumn 1999)

Cornish Seals

Cornish Marine Wildlife Reports 1999 (by Ray Dennis)

Harp Seal Report (1997)
Hooded Seal - Cornish Report (1995)

Seal Sanctuary at Gweek, Cornwall

Orkney Seals

September 1999
A sick and exhausted six-month-old female Hooded Seal, Cystophora cristata, found in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, was only the third one  to have been seen  in the islands. She was taken in by Orkney Seal Rescue but unfortunately died after only a few days. For more information, contact Ross Flett, Orkney Seal Rescue.
EMail: selkiesave@aol.com

Illustration of a Hooded Seal by Chris Hicks (Northolt)

Hooded Seals spend most of their life on the Arctic pack ice.
Hooded Seal - Cornish Report (1995)

Isle of  Skye Seals

17 May 2000
A pink (leucistic) Grey Seal, Halichoerus grypus, was seen around the Isle of Skye, western Scotland. As soon as the seal saw the boat, it took to the water straight away. The other seals continued to lay around on the rocky shore. The seal remained pink in colour even when wet, they normally turn dark. It was clearly visible under the surface due to its light colour.

Report by Nigel Smith (Sea Probe)
(Link to)  Battle of the Seals

Sound of Mull Seals

Back in July 2000 we watched a Bull Grey Seal, catch, kill and eat an adult common seal at the entrance to Lochaline. It was quite spectacular to watch but I couldn't help feel sorry for the Common Seal..

Davy Holt, Paisley, Scotland
ICQ 81258455
Yahoo: davyh_2001

SCOS 00/2
Scientific Advice on Matters Related to the Management of Seal Populations: 2000

Under the Conservation of Seals Act 1970, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) has a duty to provide scientific advice to government on matters related to the management of seal populations.
NERC has appointed a Special Committee on Seals (SCOS) to formulate this advice so that it may discharge this statutory duty.

This document is available as a *.pdf  electronic file, readable using Acrobat Reader, from Peter Haddow of the Seal Conservation Society. BMLSS members can request a copy from Glaucus House

  • by David Miller
  • Colin Baxter Photography 1998

  •   ISBN  1-900455-46-3
    This interesting well written book provides a comprehensive introduction to the Seals and Sea Lions of the seas of the world, and their relationship with Man. The high quality paperback contains 72 pages including 43 excellent colour photographs. 

    The book is divided into the following chapters:

    Seals & Sea Lions 
    Food and Feeding 
    Life in the Water 
    The Breeding Cycle
    Man, Seals & Sea Lions 
    Enjoying Seals & Sea Lions 
    Seal & Seal Lion Facts 

    It is worth having a close look at this book in a bookshop and reading some of the informative text. Page 35 is a good page to start where the explanation of the seals utilisation of oxygen when diving is clear. There are no caption boxes with extra information as it is all included in the main body of text. This can make it quite a hard read as there is so much information that the reader cannot take it in at once. There are no wasted words. Occasionally, the explanations require a large vocabulary, which will be OK for BMLSS members but may be too difficult for children. 

    Individual species of Seals and Sea Lions are not featured on their own pages, but the Index chapter gives the common and scientific names, general distribution details, brief details of their diet, length and average weight, and the estimated world population. 

    Conclusion:  a very good book for the general wildlife enthusiast. 

    Reviews by Andy Horton
    Use these links if your are familiar with the scientific classifications of marine life
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