Encounters with Seals

Seals are formidable predators and on top of the food chain having only a few natural enemies, the most important one being humans. They carry a good and well working set of teeth, which can cause nasty injuries. It can be almost guaranteed that any kind of bite or even scratch caused be these teeth will become infected and will spread via tendons sheaths not responding well to antibiotics, sometimes needing surgical intervention.Seals, as all animals including humans do, carry a multitude of diseases which can also affect humans causing headaches, lethargy or sinusitis. Pregnant woman are at risk of abortion caused by Brucella species. Seal can be affected by a self limiting, common and usually for seals harmless disease called seal pox, which is highly contagious amongst seals and can be transmitted to humans. Salmonella species can cause diarrhoea and fever in humans, just to name a few examples.On the other hand, stroking a wild animal will also transmit human diseases to the animal and might cause severe problems if not even death of the animal and other animals the seal is interacting with.

Feeding wild animals like seals causes animals to lose their natural wariness of humans or boats and become conditioned to receiving handouts and associate people with food. This puts them at risk to be injured or killed by people, dogs or boats. It changes their natural behaviours, including feeding and migration activities, and decreases their willingness to forage for food on their own. They may also begin to take bait or catch from fishing gear potentially putting them at risk to be shot. These changed behaviours may be passed on to their young and other members of their social groups and increases their risk of injury from boats, entanglement in fishing gear, and intentional harm by people frustrated with the behavioural changes. Some of the food items that are fed to marine mammals including seals may be contaminated or not food at all. Feeding marine mammal’s inappropriate food, non-food items, or contaminated food jeopardises their health. Marine mammals sometimes become aggressive when seeking food, and are known to bite or injure people when teased or expecting food.

Interacting with wild marine mammals including seals should not be attempted, and viewing marine mammals must be conducted in a manner that does not harass the animals.Please follow the guidelines below to enjoy you seal encounter:

•Observing seals from safe distances of at least 50 yards

•Use binoculars or telephoto lenses for a better view of the animals

•Limit overall viewing time to no more than 30 minutes

•Avoid circling or entrapping seals between watercraft, or watercraft and shore

•Avoid abrupt movements or loud noises around seals

•Avoid separating mother and calf pairs

•Move away cautiously if behaviours are observed that indicate the animal is stressed

•Avoid touching or swimming with seals, even if they approach you

Wild Bird Aid - Registered Charity No. 1170857