This species gains its name from the mass of exceptionally long vibrissae on the muzzle when compared with other seal species. While their fur is grey/brown and does not have much patterning. Unusually, it is adult females that are larger than males in this species. It is possible that this species could be confused with grey or hooded seals. Bearded seals are found in Alaska (USA), North and East Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway and Russia, but the population is not well surveyed and an accurate overall estimate is unavailable, but is at least in the mid-hundreds of thousands.
Bearded seals are extremely rare visitors to the UK as the species prefers the colder waters of the Arctic.
They have been found around the UK occasionally, particularly around Shetland and along the East coast.
Individuals found in the UK tend the be adults and not necessarily requiring rescue. As with most vagrant species most animals simply require monitoring and stay in an area for just a short time. There are plenty of food sources available and they are quite capable of surviving here.
Watch it from a distance. Do not approach the animal. Seals regularly haul out on our coasts – it is part of their normal behaviour and in fact they spend more time out of the water, digesting their food and resting. Therefore, finding a seal on the beach does not mean there is necessarily a problem and they should not be chased back into the sea as this may stop them from doing what they need to do – rest. A healthy seal should be left well alone.
After stormy weather and / or high tides, seals will haul out onto beaches to rest and regain their strength. Many do not need first aid, but we will always try to find someone to check them out just in case.
However, if there is a problem, there are a number of things you may see:
If you see a seal that may be abandoned, thin or ill, then call for advice and assistance:
You will receive further advice over the phone. If there is a problem with the animal, there are some important things you can do to help: