The Easter bank holiday weekend has sadly seen an unprecedented flurry of reports to BDMLR’s hotline regarding disturbance, harassment and attacks on seals. On Good Friday alone there were five incidents called in from across the country before lunchtime, setting a sad new low in our records for receiving so many such reports in a short space of time.
At this time of year we still have young seals who have only been independent of their mother for a few weeks that are finding their way in the world. Sometimes they come up at night to sleep on to what are normally public beaches and in the morning find themselves surrounded by people and chased by dogs back into the sea. However, some animals may actually be sick, injured and weak and are therefore less able to escape or defend themselves, so are especially vulnerable to abuse.
Incidents reported over the bank holiday weekend included a seal in Kent that was attacked and injured by an uncontrolled dog, a seal in Essex and another in Yorkshire that were being stoned by youths, plus several other incidents of seals being purposefully chased into the sea by people and dogs all along the east coast to Northumberland. Sadly at a small number of these incidents our volunteer Medics have been faced with abusive language from the same people abusing the animals.
Last year a government-supported campaign was launched by the Seal Alliance coalition (which BDMLR is part of) to share best practice advice for seal watching, which can be found on this link here. Further efforts to raise awareness of marine wildlife disturbance have also been made via a joint Police/RSPCA campaign called Operation Seabird, which is rolling out nationally this year and has been supported by BDMLR too.
If anyone witnesses seals or other wildlife being attacked then we would encourage members of the public to report them to the Police on 999 in an emergency, or otherwise on the non-emergency number 101. Potential wildlife crimes such as this are seriously under-reported and we need more people to report what they witness to help show there is a need for more resources to be allocated to tackling these problems.
BDMLR strongly encourages the sharing of the best practice guidelines and advice here as the warmer weather attracts people to the coast with a simple message: please respect our wildlife!