A record year for seals at Donna Nook nature reserve

Seals at Donna Nook by Carole Crawford

A record 1,889 seal pups were born this year at Lincolnshire’s nature reserve, bringing the total seal population at Donna Nook, on the County’s east coast, to:

126 bulls
133 cows
564 pups

This is likely to be the final count, unless there are some late Christmas deliveries.

For much of the year grey seals at the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trusts’ Donna Nook National Nature Reserve are at sea or hauled out on distant sandbanks. However, every November and December, the seals give birth to their pups near the sand dunes: a wildlife spectacle which attracts visitors from across the UK.

The viewing area at the foot of the sand dunes reduces disturbance to the seals and ensures the safety of visitors – it should be noted that mothers with pups can be very protective and big bulls can be aggressive too.

Seals are large predators and are very powerful. They can move surprisingly quickly and, having teeth similar to a dog, can inflict a nasty bite – including the pups.

A mother seal may also abandon her pup if it smells of humans or dogs, so it is essential that observations by the public are made at a safe distance only.

In 2013 storms caused devastation as the water level rose above the height of the viewing area fence line during high tide, trapping seals into the dunes and visitors area when the tide went back out.

Lincolnshire wildlife trust acted quickly, opening the five gates in the fence but it soon became apparent that this would be insufficient and they cut holes in the fence.

Sadly this still wasn’t enough and as everything was being undertaken by torchlight the work was quite dangerous and some hours later there were several stranded pups found, calling for their mothers. In total 37 had to be taken in by Mablethorpe Seal Sanctuary for care before being later released.

The infrastructure of the site was also seriously damaged. The fence which protected the seals from the thousands of visitors during the pupping season had to be replaced and the information huts were all in need of replacement.

Thankfully, this doesn’t seem to have affected the colony and it is welcome news that the population is on the increase.