Skomer seal pup update!

Grey seal pupping season is almost coming to an end. We caught up with Lisa, our Head of Islands and Marine, to give us an update so far on the seal pups for 2021.

Back in August, Birgitta (Bee) Buche started in the post as Seal Field Officer. Many of you will remember Bee; she was joint Skomer warden with her partner Ed between 2013 and 2018. When she heard that we needed an experienced seal person, she was keen to apply. The seal survey had been a favourite job during her years on Skomer and the chance to return to the island and the seals was too good a chance to miss. Moreover, we were very pleased to welcome her back to the team.

It’s too early to give a full summary of the pupping season but as of early November a total of 268 pups had been born on Skomer, already exceeding last years’ total of 243 by some distance! We only expect a handful of pups to be born in November so the final total for 2021 is likely to be around 270 the most productive year on record for the island.

WTSWW complete the Grey Seal monitoring project on Skomer each year under contract to Natural Resources Wales and the dataset stretches back to 1983. The method relies on our ability to follow the progress of individual pups on increasingly busy rookeries. In order to achieve this pups are marked using coloured aerosol sheep-fleece sprays. These livestock sprays are harmless and the dye fades and finally falls off with the pup’s white natal coat as it moults.

The problem in recent years is that so many more pups are being born on Skomer. Admittedly, a nice problem to have, but it means creating enough colour combinations to assign one to each pup is getting more difficult. It also takes meticulous planning by Bee to stay on top of the record keeping and data collection.  There are just not enough colours at the farm shop to cope with our ever-successful grey seal population!

-- Lisa Morgan, Head of Islands and Marine