Confused Cornish seals give up on wash-out summer and start prepping for winter

Wednesday, 09 August 2023

Resident seals at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary have decided summer 2023 is a wash-out – and think it's now winter.

The poor weather over recent weeks has seen the grey seals, who live year-round at the marine rescue charity’s site in Gweek, near Helston, start moulting.

Usually, this only happens in late winter or early spring, when old, drab fur is replaced with a shiny new coat, ready for the demands of extreme temperature changes.

Tamara Cooper, the charity’s Curator, says: “It’s incredibly unusual for our seals to be moulting at this time of year, but we think a few of them might be a bit confused by the dull weather.

“The process takes a lot of energy, as they have to increase the blood supply to the skin at this time, so, as you can imagine, they’re spending a lot of time resting.”

One of the moulting seals, known as Ray, has lived at the Sanctuary since he was just a few weeks old. Rescued after a storm, when it’s thought he was dashed against the rocks, he now has a permanent home at the Sanctuary as he could not survive in the wild – and is a firm favourite with visiting guests.

This year isn’t quite an anomaly, however, as Tamara explains that they’re beginning to see the effects of the changing seasons on wild grey seal populations around the Cornish coast, too.

She says: “Pup season seems to be starting earlier and earlier each year, with pups now coming into our hospital as early as August. We used to expect them from September. This means our team is already prepping our hospital for the first patients, which could be just a matter of days.

“While this could be a direct sign of our seasons getting earlier over the years, it also has a knock-on effect because the pups are more likely to come into contact with the huge volume of visitors Cornwall sees each summer to our local beaches.”

The charity is now reminding locals and visitors alike that disturbance can be a real issue for pups on the beach, often leading to abandonment by their mums, which can be fatal.

Those who do see a pup on the beach are advised to keep dogs on leads and children away, and not to approach or chase the seal back into the sea.

If you believe the pup is in distress or needs medical attention, you can find the signs to look out for and what to do next. You can also call the Cornish Seal Sanctuary directly on 01326 221361 or British Divers Marine Life Rescue on 01825 765546 for more help and advice.

To find out more about the Cornish Seal Sanctuary and its mission, click here.