Man discovers seal pup washed up on the beach: Rescue officer advises people to 'keep their distance' from seal pups

Tracey Folly

A man was walking along the beach in East Lothian, Scotland on November 23, 2022, when he discovered a seal pup. The beach is popular among dogwalkers and visitors to the nearby Barns Ness lighthouse.

The man was concerned about the animal, which appeared to be injured. He called the Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA), which sent a representative to examine the seal pup.

Unfortunately, upon examination, the seal pup was found to have an injured eye as well as multiple other health issues.

Scottish SPCA senior animal rescue officer, Melissa Maitland, was quoted by Edinburgh Live:

We were alerted to an injured seal pup on the beach near to Barns Ness lighthouse.
The seal had a severe wound to their eye and, on examination by a vet at our National Wildlife Rescue Centre, was found to have other serious health issues which meant they had to be put to sleep on welfare grounds.
We would advise members of the public that if they come across a seal pup they keep their distance from the animal, keep any dogs on the lead and call our helpline [...] for advice.

According to the RSPCA, a healthy seal pup looks like an overstuffed maggot (sorry for the visual) with no neck. A sickly seal pup may appear thinner with a dog-like neck. Whether you see a seal pup that appears healthy or sick, follow this one simple rule: no touching.

It's a common misconception that if you find a seal pup on the beach, you should try to help it. In reality, the best thing you can do is to keep your distance.

How close is too close? According to the Marine Mammal Rescue Center, you should keep a distance of at least fifty feet between yourself and any stranded marine animals you may come across.

If you get too close, you may scare the pup and cause it to flee into the water where it could be in danger. Also, seal pups can be aggressive when they're scared, and they have sharp teeth that can hurt you.

Yes, they're cute, but they do bite. Seal pups are wild animals and can be dangerous. They have sharp teeth and can bite if they feel threatened.

Seal pups are often sick or injured when they wash up on shore. By approaching them, you could make their condition worse. Keep dogs and other pets away as well.

If you see a seal pup on the beach, the best thing to do is call your local Marine Mammal Rescue Center if available in your area. They will be able to assess the situation and determine if the pup needs help. If you can't reach a Marine Mammal Rescue Center, you can try to contact a local animal shelter or wildlife rehabilitator.

I once spotted the carcass of a large sea turtle tangled in fishing lines; it was far too late to offer any help at that point. What's the strangest marine animal you've ever encountered on the beach? Comments are welcome.

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