40% of the world population of Grey Seals
and 95% of the EC population live around the coasts of Britain.
colonies of Grey Seal are found off both the east and the
west coast of Britain, but since the early 1990's Grey Seals
have been seen off Walney island (they have been present
off the Isle of Man for many years previous to that). Increasing
numbers now haul out on the spit at South Walney, with between
20 and 50 usually present and occasionally over 100, and
similar numbers may be present in summer at a low water
haul out on a Solway sandbank. Visitors to the CWT Reserve
on South Walney usually have a good chance of seeing them
from the Groyne Hide.
are regular sightings on the coast all year round from the
Solway right round to Morecambe Bay, even as far in as Arnside.
It is known that Grey Seals are long distance swimmers and
that there is movement between Cumbria, the Isle of Man,
Galloway or even Ireland. The marine group of Cumbria Wildlife
Trust is carrying out extensive survey work and recording
facial markings, which are then exchanged with other groups
to see whether recognition is possible.
is not known at present whether they produce pups in the
area or exactly how the population varies during the year.
In winter numbers tend to be lower than in the summer, presumably
because the females and a number of mature males have travelled
to pupping/breeding sites, but 25-35 is not uncommon off
U.K.'s largest native mammal, the Grey or Atlantic Seal, may
be up to 3 metres long and weigh 300kg. They are recognised
by their elongated head and Roman nose (the Common Seal, which
is actually less common, is smaller and has a snub nose).
Grey Seal coats are spotted and vary in colour from dark grey,
through silver, to brown; the pattern of blotches around the
head and neck is unique to each individual and this can be
used in identification.
the years, Grey Seals have experienced an on-off relationship
with conservation. When numbers fell to less than 500 around
the UK in the early part of the 20th century, the first
mammal protection conservation legislation in the UK was
passed. This was revoked during the 1970's and 1980's as
fish stocks were supposedly being threatened by large numbers
of Grey Seals. New bans on hunting came into force a few
years after this, as a result of public pressure.
Grey Seals are produced during September and October and
have an attractive white fur but this is shed after about
3 weeks. They are so approachable that killing them is easy
- they were invariably clubbed to death to preserve their
are very occasional sightings of Common Seal
around the west Cumbrian coast and in recent years several
pups have been born at midsummer on the Duddon Estuary. They
are also recorded sometimes in Morecambe Bay in the Ulverston
Channel and off Humphrey Head.
an excellent and charming short Facebook video on Grey Seals
by Giles Barkley