Seal mum abandons pup after being harassed on Norfolk beach

Seal pup and mother

People are being urged to keep their distance from seals on Norfolk beaches as suckling mothers can abandon their young when they feel threatened. - Credit: Friends of Horsey Seals

A starving seal pup has been rescued after reports of beachgoers scaring its mother into the sea near Waxham.

Friends of Horsey Seals (FoHS) is urging people to keep their distance and keep their dogs on leads when visiting seal colonies on Norfolk beaches.

It is currently breeding season for Harbour seals - also known as Common seals - found and many colonies can be seen on beaches around the coast. 

When mother seals feel threatened or put under duress, it is common for them to abandon their young.

Seal pup on beach

The seal pup was found on Waxham beach trying to suckle on rocks. - Credit: Friends of Horsey Seals

On Monday, it was reported that an adult Harbour seal had been harassed by people visiting Waxham beach, and escaped to the North Sea, abandoning its pup.

The pup was later found starving, trying to suckle on a rock. It was monitored for 24 hours while volunteers waited to see if its mother would return.

When the mother did not return, the pup was taken to East Winch RSPCA Wildlife Centre.

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A spokesperson for FoHS said: "There were reports of beachgoers getting so close that the mother ran off into the sea. Which is particularly disturbing.

"We are worried there is a heightened risk to the seal population with school holidays starting with many more people likely to visit the beach.

"Common seals are an endangered species and interfering with marine mammals during their breeding season is an offence and can be reported to the police."

Seal pup being rescued

After its mother did not return, the Common seal pup was taken to East Winch RSPCA Wildlife Centre. - Credit: Friends of Horsey Seals

In February, television presenter Professor Ben Garrod made a further plea for beachgoers to keep dogs on leads, following a seal getting attacked on Caister beach.

The presenter said: "Our wild animals are to be cherished and appreciated, not stressed, harassed, and mauled."

Last year, a petition for harsher penalties for people harassing seals received over 25,000 signatures. 

The government responded: "We recognises that disturbance by the public can be detrimental, and on occasion, fatal to seals. Work to explore the possibility of strengthening legislation is in early stages."

Last summer, there were several reports of people getting too close to seals, including shocking footage of one man taunting them by Horsey Gap.

The man, part of a group with a toddler, was seen chasing a pregnant grey seal which had no option but to escape into the water.

For more information about the work of Friends of Horsey Seals, visit: www.friendsofhorseyseals.co.uk.