Rare sighting of Arctic seal found chilling on Snettisham beach

PUBLISHED: 13:33 01 February 2017 | UPDATED: 13:42 01 February 2017

Summer the Harp seal bathing in the Norfolk sun. Picture: Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary

Summer the Harp seal bathing in the Norfolk sun. Picture: Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary

Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary

An Arctic seal has been spotted chilling on Snettisham beach whilst on course to the North Pole.

Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary were called to the beach on January 28 after a member of the public made a rare sighting of the Harp seal.

A flipper tag identified the seal as Summer who was last rehabilitated at Seal Rehabilitation and Research Centre in the Netherlands.

She was rescued on January 18 after being found to be underweight.

After making good progress she was released into the wild to find her way home to the Arctic Ocean but made a stop off at Norfolk first.

Seal expert Nathaniel Stephenson said: “This is truly a rare sighting as the last Harp seal they encountered was over 10 years ago and didn’t expect such a special guest any time soon.

“This seal appeared to be in good condition and seemed to be resting, though this seal was one and a half times the size of our largest resident seal, Sally, who weighs approximately 100kg kilos.”

Usually common or grey seals are found on Norfolk beaches and Harp seals are found in the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans where they are more familiar with sea ice than sandy beaches.

This type of species is highly migratory, travelling vast distances where its hunting ground is covered with Arctic sea ice as it expands and contracts throughout the year.

Harp seal pups are covered in a white fluffy fur to protect them against the harsh arctic conditions, once fully grown they lose this fluffy layer and can be identified by their harp-shaped skin pigmentation on their backs.

Adam Makinson from the Sanctuary said: “It is unlikely we will find one like her here.

“When you look on a map of where the rescue centre is in the Netherlands we are a straight line across.

“I won’t be surprised if she is found further up the UK coast.”

Senior aquarist Natalie Emmerson said: “This is the first time we have ever dealt with a Harp seal here, it was really exciting to find her here.”

Dog walkers and beach users are to keep a lookout for this incredibly beautiful and rare seal.

If sighted please call Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary on 01485 533576.

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