S.O.S. logo S.O.S. Update National Seal Sanctuary
Issue 11
13th March 2009
Blimey Oh'Riley
On the 12th February 2009 volunteers from the Cornwall Seal Group reported seeing a young male grey seal pup with monofilament fishing net entangled around the neck. Estimated to be 2 months old, and with a lot of growing still to do, the netting was already beginning to restrict his movement and cause a small gash around the neck. With a worrying prognosis, over the following weeks the Cornwall Seal Group and BDMLR medics kept a close look out for the seal, during which time he hauled out a handful of times on one of the busiest seal breeding beaches in the South West. Largely inaccessible to humans due to the steep 200ft cliff and being cut off by the tide, the cove is a perfect spot for seals to give birth, but less then ideal for a rescue attempt!

Finally, on the 9th March 2009 the seal hauled out on low tide with around fifteen other seals offering the best opportunity so far to attempt a rescue. With the tide coming in, BDMLR medics and the Cornwall Seal Group arranged for a climbing team to assist Tamara, Animal Care Supervisor, and Tim, BDMLR Area Coordinator, to abseil down to the cove. Already a small group of seals had spotted the team and headed into the water, but luckily the netted seal had not noticed their presence. The team still did not know how many other seals were in the sea cave behind the seal and when these seals saw the rescuers they would almost certainly stampede into the water, possibly taking the netted seal with them.

As the team approached the far side of the beach this is exactly what happened and around fifteen to twenty seals stampeded towards the water. Luckily the netted seal had a very distinctive dark pelage and Tamara and Tim were able to easily single him out and block his route to the sea. Wrapped in a towel he was moved away from the other seals so he could be properly assessed. The netting had caused a nasty 1˝ inch gash all the way around the neck and although it looked clean, could easily become infected if not treated. Despite the injury he appeared to be in good condition weighing a healthy 32 kilos. Tamara and Tim cut the netting off and placed him in a seal bag to haul him back up the cliff before placing him in a cage ready for the transport back to the sanctuary.

Back at the sanctuary the Animal Care Team cleaned the wound, took blood samples and finally decided on a name; ‘Riley’, after our local vet Paul Riley who is celebrating his 10th year working with the sanctuary. Riley’s wound is healing quickly, but despite appearances his blood results suggested he was fighting an infection for which he is receiving a course of antibiotics as well as an anti-inflammatory. Riley is expected to make a speedy recovery and the team hope he will be ready for release within the next 6 weeks.

The sanctuary would like to thank the continued support of Sue Sayer and all the volunteers of the Cornwall Seal Group, the endless support and assistance from BDMLR Director Dave Jarvis, Area Coordinator Tim Bain and all the medics involved in seal rescue and monitoring, and the National Trust for their valuable information and assistance in all seal related matters at the cove.
Tamara and Tim have the seal and heading towards the cliff  - photo copyright of Sue Sayer of Cornwall Seal Group
Above: Tamara and Tim have the seal and heading towards the cliff
Tamara checks Riley is OK  - photo copyright of Sue Sayer of Cornwall Seal Group
Above: Tamara checks Riley is OK
Tamara checks Riley is OK  - photo copyright of Sue Sayer of Cornwall Seal Group
Above: Tamara with the netting

News Updates for 2009