Coastal visitors warned to stay away from seals after reports of disturbances endangering pups

Coastal visitors are urged to keep their distance from seals following a number of recent disturbances endangering the animals.

NatureScot said it was particularly important not bother the creatures at this time year when harbour seals are having pups.

The organisation said disturbances can result in pups becoming separated from their mothers, resulting in young seals being abandoned, stranded or orphaned.

In northern areas of Scotland, such as Shetland, people sometimes rush to the shore to see killer whales without realising there may be seals nearby.

This can force seals into the water with no way of escaping the approaching predator.

Most harbour seals use more isolated areas to pup, but with the increase in water activities, even some remote sites are seeing human visitors.

Recently, paddleboarders, kayakers and canoeists caused harbour seals to rush off sand banks at Loch Fleet.

A paddleboarder was even reported to have landed on a sandbank to try to take a selfie with seals.

People are also asked to keep dogs away from seals and on the lead when walking near seal haul-outs.

NatureScot’s head of protected areas and nature reserves Ben Ross said: “It is wonderful to see people increasingly discovering, appreciating and enjoying nature as we emerge from the pandemic.

“It’s everyone’s responsibility to protect these amazing assets, and we’d like to thank the vast majority of our visitors for caring for and protecting the environment and respecting others’ rights when they’re out in the countryside.

“We’ve seen quite a difference so far this spring and summer, and encourage visitors to our nature reserves and to the countryside more widely to continue to play their part.”

When watching seals, people are asked to be quiet, avoid sudden movements and be responsive to their behaviour. They should also back off if it looks like the seals may enter the water.

Observers are urged to be especially cautious if there are pups present; as seals may bite if they feel threatened.


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