Remember, human intervention can kill
Humans walking among the seals is not acceptable during the pupping season and is likely to lead to abandonments and starvation among pups. Please take notice of the following advice when visiting the Seals…
Never walk on the beach where there are seals during the pupping and breeding season
It only lasts around 12 weeks. Use the roped off paths and safe viewing areas on the dunes. Our wardens will help to direct you.
Never come between a pup and its mother
Getting too close to seal pups could lead to the mother abandoning it and never returning, leaving it to starve to death. In addition, the mother could attack you.
Bull seals can be dangerous.
Bull seals are huge and territorial, so be aware they can move much faster than you can run over a short distance, especially going downhill. You need to remember that sometimes in their efforts to mate with a particular cow they may follow her into the dunes and can be concealed by hollows in the terrain.
Walking your dog?
Always put dogs on a short lead to keep both the seals and your dog safe. Seals are particularly protective of their young and will bite a dog if approached. Seals see dogs as predators.
Don’t chase seals or their pups into the water.
Seal pups, while white, are not waterproof and are likely to drown if driven onto the sea. It is quite normal for adult seals to haul out and rest on land while sleeping or digesting their food.
Getting too close to seals is not OK.
The recent popularity of taking selfies has tempted some people to get far too close to seals. You should never be nearer than 10 metres. If they are disturbed, they automatically go into a flight or fight response. If threatened they might attack and bite or potentially could crush pups in their haste to get away.
Viewing seals safely – a note for parents
Many young children think seal pups are cute, soft and cuddly and may be tempted to try and stroke them. However, kids can put themselves in danger from a protective cow seal if they get too close, so please ensure they stay at your side anywhere near seals.
Older children love to run and play in the dunes, but they need to be aware that there may be seals concealed in dips or hidden by tall grass. Youngsters could accidentally stumble upon them and risk getting bitten. You will be safe on the roped off paths, which are monitored by our wardens. Finally, please be aware that seals have an acute sense of hearing and are disturbed by loud noises including the sound of human voices.
There are excellent opportunities for photographers at Horsey and Winterton but bring a good zoom or long prime lens and tripod if you are hoping to get closeup shots. You are likely to get excellent images from the dunes but will not be able to go on the beach because it is closed. If you were to get among cows and their pups it is likely that you would cause a number of them to abandon their pups.
Check with our wardens where the seals are located on the day you visit and remember that the welfare of your subject is more important than the photograph. Be patient and please abide by the Royal Photographic Societies’ Nature Photographers code of Practice.
Dogs & Seals
However well trained your dog is most seem to be fascinated by seals and will be keen to investigate them. Seals are likely to become quite feisty if a dog approaches because instinctively they see them as predators. Please never allow your dogs off the lead anywhere near seals.
Female seals are very protective of their pups and won’t hesitate to bite a dog if it gets near enough. Unfortunately, it is not unknown for a dog to attack small pups either. If your dog does get bitten it will need immediate veterinary attention. Seals carry harmful organisms in their mouths, which can cause nasty infections.
During pupping season, seals sometimes go up into the dunes for a bit of peace and quiet and you and your dog could easily come across them unexpectedly. Having said that, well behaved dogs on short leads are most welcome and of course please bag up your dog waste and dispose of it responsibly. Check out the Kennel Club Countryside Code.
What to do if you find a seal on its own…
It is not unusual to come across a pup which appears to be on its own. During the three weeks after they are born the cows will sometimes leave their pup to take a quick dip and maybe catch a fishy snack. They usually don’t go far and return to the pup after a short absence.
After about 21 days the mother seal will have done her job and she will leave the pup alone on the beach forever. By this time the pup should weigh 40-45 kilos. It will live off its fat for another 3 weeks while it moults its white fur, replacing it with an adult coat. Adult seals vary greatly in colour from pale grey to almost black. The adult coat is designed to keep water from penetrating the dense underfur close to the skin. A pup on its own at this time is perfectly normal and unless it appears underweight, injured, or distressed it should be left alone. Remember it is using its fat reserves to complete this process and if it gets disturbed too often and is forced to flee, it will run out of reserves before completing the process
It is quite normal to come across a weaned pup on its own and it should be left well alone. However if you come across any seal that appears injured or distressed, please advise a seal warden or if none are around, call our emergency number – 07706 314514