Headless seals spark alarm on Norfolk beach

Headless seal washed up at Winterton

A headless seal washed up at Great Yarmouth has sparked questions about how it came to be decapitated. It is believed to be one of four found on the sands this year. - Credit: Craig Marsh

Cute, fluffy, baby seals are a huge draw for wildlife watchers - but the discovery of headless corpses points to Mother Nature's darker side.

While it is impossible to tell how they died the fact of two headless seals being washed up within a short distance of each other in Great Yarmouth has sparked sadness and alarm, as well as questions about how they came to be "mutilated."

Craig Marsh

Craig Marsh who was saddened to find the headless bodies of two seals on Great Yarmouth beach and is interested to find out what happened to them. - Credit: Craig Marsh

Craig Marsh, who lives in the town, found them while out for a walk and said he was aware of two others whose injuries were hard to account for, tagging the scene "bizarre".

He added there was a small, white pup nearby making its way into the sea, and speculated that sharks, boat propellers, or aqua turbines could be responsible.

David Vyse, vice chairman of the Friends of Horsey Seals, said although not common, one or two headless animals were usually found each year.

Wardens rescuing a seal

FoHS wardens rescuing a seal. From left to right: Tony Chapman, Billy Le Compte and David Vyse - Credit: Damien Stabler

He said it was normally down to foxes feasting on the heads after the animal had died, adding : "The first thing that goes is the eyes because of the soft tissue."

The sightings at Great Yarmouth were the first ones this year, he said, the blackness of the skin indicating they had been dead for some time.

Although the bulls fought they usually went for the body leaving distinctive claw marks, and were unlikely to have caused the injuries, he said.

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And while some said the churning waves could have ripped off the heavy heads after the seals had died, it was not a theory he accepted.

Because of the latest coronavirus lockdown announced on Monday January 4 seal wardens were no longer patrolling the beaches at Horsey and Winterton where the colony is based.

Seal corridor Winterton

A seal corridor at Winterton has been hailed a success in keeping the animals away for the dunes and still giving the public a wildlife experience to cherish. - Credit: Liz Coates

With the season coming to an end the pups would soon be off the beaches and visitors from outside the area were being told to stay away.

Winterton beach car park is closed, although the one at Horsey gap remains open.

The number of pups born this year is estimated to be around the same as last year, a record 2,316.

However, high tides saw many washed away.

The seals will next be seen on the  shore in large numbers in March when the adults come out of the water to moult.

In a statement, Great Yarmouth Borough Council said: “Unfortunately there has been several deceased seal pups collected from along the Great Yarmouth coastline in the last 24 hours.

“This is not necessarily unusual given the rough weather we have lately experienced off the coast.

"However, the Environmental Health team will continue to monitor the situation.

 “If anyone comes across a dead seal or other large carcass on the beach, please report it to GYBS on 01493 742200.”