Seal colony needs your help

As the grey seal colony on the east Norfolk coastline keeps on expanding, the Friends of Horsey Seals (FoHS) have launched an urgent appeal for more volunteers to become seal wardens.

The covid-19 restrictions which caused so many of us a rough time in recent months have no impact on the grey seals’ plans, and a record number are expected to haul out onto Horsey and Winterton Beaches from late October to give birth to their distinctive white furred pups.

One of the seals born last year at the beach. Photo: Glenn Mingham.

People come from all over the world to see this amazing natural spectacle.

Seals are packed in close proximity, and there is the extra drama of 300-kilo bull seals fighting each other for the privilege to mate with the cows. Last year more than 2,000 pups were born.

With well over 100,000 visitors, the wardens play a vital role to protect the seal colony from unnecessary human disturbance.  While most visitors are respectful of the seals’ vulnerability and keep their distance, a number of young seals die each year after people get too close and scare the mother away leaving her pup to die of starvation.

Warden Sophie Dawes, from Bristol, comes to Horsey each year duing her holidays to help protect the seals. This season will be her third.

During the breeding season, between November and January the wardens cordon off the beach at Horsey, not only to protect the seals but also to keep the visitors safe.  They are also on hand to answer any questions about these magnificent wild animals and guide people to the best viewing spots.  

Friends of Horsey Seals is a charity run and staffed entirely by volunteers and is in action all year round.  The organisation’s trained rescue team are on call round the clock to save seals, many of which turn up injured or entangled in plastic rings, ropes or nets. Almost always they are badly weakened and underweight

Despite the start of the pupping season in November being some months away, the opportunity of seeing the seals and their pups this year is likely to attract many thousands of visitors, assuming that government restrictions allow, and the charity says it has a responsibility to prepare and be ready.

Jane Bowden, the FoHS recruitment co-ordinator, said: “It is important to have enough trained seal wardens available to do shifts when required.  The wardens do an incredible job in all weathers and there is a constant turnover, which is why we need to recruit more every year.  It is an opportunity for individuals to make a real difference.”

All FoHS Wardens will receive comprehensive training.  This year there are workshops in mid-September and early October at Somerton, in addition to some practical training on the beach.  They will be conducted in accordance with any government advice on the coronavirus situation at that time.

If anyone is interested in volunteering and becoming a seal warden they can register by sending an email torecruitment@friendsofhorseyseals.co.uk

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