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Call for Calm and Education as Seals find Haven on Dorset Beaches

After several incidents of seals hauling out onto Dorset beaches in recent months, the Dorset Wildlife Trust has had to issue a warning urging local residents to keep their distance from resting seals. Disturbing scenes at Durdle Door, where a large crowd of people surrounded a seal that had hauled out to rest, indicate that previous pleas to keep a distance from these magnificent marine mammals have been largely disregarded. Perhaps not surprising given that the previous month saw a police officer posing with a seal on the same beach after the area was cordoned off and visitors told to stay away...


Disturbing scenes at Durdle Door

After several incidents of seals hauling out onto Dorset beaches in recent months, the Dorset Wildlife Trust has had to issue a warning urging local residents to keep their distance from resting seals. Disturbing scenes at Durdle Door, where a large crowd of people surrounded a seal that had hauled out to rest, indicate that previous pleas to keep a distance from these magnificent marine mammals have been largely disregarded. Perhaps not surprising given that the previous month saw a police officer posing with a seal on the same beach after the area was cordoned off and visitors told to stay away.


Seals found resting on beaches along the Dorset coat


A spokesperson for Dorset Wildlife Trust said: 'In recent weeks there have been several reports of seals resting on beaches along the Dorset coast. Seals are very mobile marine mammals and travel hundreds of kilometres, but it is completely normal for them to come ashore to rest so they can recover lost energy, digest their food and they will also haul out for longer periods during their moulting season. It's important that they are given plenty of space to rest without being disturbed.' 


The charity have set up a special page for recording sightings and are also sharing tips for how to watch seals responsibly. These include keeping well away from seals so that they can't see, hear or smell you, using a camera zoom or binoculars for a better view; keeping dogs on a lead if seals are known to be in the area; never feeding seals; taking all litter home; and not seeking out encounters with seals in the water.  


Now, with weather warming and an influx of visitors expected, there is concern that hauled out seals may become distressed if not given sufficient space, and may even cause injury. Tim Anderton, of Weymouth Powerboat Training, who witnessed the rumpus at Durdle Door, said: 'We have an amazing range of wildlife on our coasts and the temptation is to get close as we would with our own pets. These are, however, wild animals and they need the space on the beach to rest and digest their food. They can also be dangerous with a nasty bite. People should keep well clear.' 


Following the hullaballoo on recent beaches, Dorset Wildlife Trust, through their Dorset Seal Project, have been keen to educate about seals that are spotted locally and to raise awareness of this iconic species. Although they do not have any natural predators in Dorset, seals face increasing pressures from environmental and human-based sources, with climate change causing frequent extreme weather events and affecting prey availability and distribution. 

Home to almost 40% of the global grey seal population and around 30% of the European subspecies of the common seal (phoca vitulina) population, UK waters are important territories for the seal population. Seals can remain at sea for days, covering hundreds of kilometres at a time. Occasionally seals will come ashore. This is known as ‘hauling out’.


The common seal (phoca vitulina) (see above) is the smaller of the two UK species, and is also known as a harbour seal. They can grow up to 2 metres, weigh between 65-150 kg and have an average lifespan of between 20 and 35 years. They are protected in Britain under the Conservation of Seals Act 1970. The common seal can be distinguished from the grey seal by its smaller size and shorter head with a more concave forehead. Common seals have V-shaped nostrils. They are very variable in colour, from blonde to black, but generally grey with dark spots.


Poole Harbour is an important site for common seals, and they have been present in the harbour for a number of years.  Compared with grey seals, sightings of common seals are not as widespread throughout Dorset with almost all the common seal sightings restricted to Poole Harbour and adjacent waterways.  Several common seals have been recorded on multiple occasions throughout the year indicating that there is a small resident population here in Dorset! 


Hambledons: Here to help


We are proud to live and work in Dorset and never cease to be amazed by the beauty that constantly surrounds us. We also love to support loal businesses where we can. View our full range of services here and get in touch here.





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