On 4th January a report came into the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre of a stranded seal pup on the slip way in New Quay.
Our initial assumption was that it would be an Atlantic grey seal pup, seeking shelter from the storm-tossed seas. However, as CBMWC staff arrived, it soon became apparent that this was not the case and in fact the animal was a sub-adult common (or harbour) seal.
The RSPCA were contacted and the animal was collected within an hour and transported to the West Hatch animal rescue centre in Taunton, Somerset. Sadly by the time the animal arrived, she was in quite a bad way and had to be euthanized. We are waiting to hear the results of the post-mortem and will post further information in the news section of our website when we have it (www.cbmwc.org).
Despite the name, common seals are not commonly seen around the coast of Wales and historically there are only a few confirmed sightings, mainly along the north Wales coast around Anglesey and Bardsey Island. The majority of common seals in the UK are found around the coasts of Scotland and along the east and south coasts of England so we are unsure as to the origin of our visitor.
So, how can you tell a common from an Atlantic grey seal? The common seal has “v” shaped nostrils and a more defined forehead whilst the grey seal has a much flatter forehead and its nostrils are parallel with a much wider septum between the nostrils.
If you would like to know more about rescuing stranded marine mammals, British Divers Marine Life Rescue will be running a Marine Mammal Medic training course at the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre (CBMWC), New Quay, on Sunday 18th March 2012. To book a place, please visit www.bdmlr.org.uk
If you find an injured seal, dolphin, whale or turtle contact the Strandings Network on 0800 6520333.
Thanks to Terry Ledbetter of Welsh Marine Life Rescue, Dave Jarvis BDMLR and Sue Sayer from Cornwall Seal Group for their advice and confirming our thoughts as to the species identity of the seal.