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A few facts you maybe didn't know about Grey Seals.

Few people realise these are a Globally rare species.  They are a beautiful feature of our local coastline, so let us tell you a little about these seals.

They are the largest land breeding mammals in the UK.

Around half the global population are found around the British Isles.

An adult female seal will give birth to a single pup annually.  Breeding is from early autumn until January, depending on the locations around the UK.

Pup's are only raised by their mothers for a short period of time, around 3 weeks.


Pups are fed high fat rich milk from their mothers to prepare them for their independence.

A seal is a juvenile until the age of around 6.  As an adult a seal can live up to around 25-35 years, females generally living longer than the males.  Females will reproduce annually from adulthood onwards. 

Adult males can grow to up to 3 metres, some becoming dominant beachmasters, mating with many females annually.

There are currently more:

African elephants in the world than there are Grey Seals;

there are also more British red squirrels than there are grey seals.

Seals habitat requirements

Our local seals eat a wide range of fish, cephalopods (squid, cuttlefish) and crustaceans (crabs, lobsters). They particularly like to eat the sand eels and fish that live near to our sea bed. It is important to protect sea grass and keep these areas free of litter and pollutants.

Grey Seal

Halichoerus grypus

(Hook nosed sea pig)

Roughly 120,000 (ish) in the UK

A Globally rare species

Fish eating Carnivore

Males reach 300kg

Females reach 200kg

Average lifespan 25-35 years

Coastal breeding

Grey seals usually come ashore to breed from late September until December. They often go back to the same beach each year to breed. Often this is when they get in trouble. The best thing you can do for a seal is encourage everyone to give them space and call us if you see anything you're unsure of, and if really concerned call the BDMLR (British Divers Marine Life Rescue) on 01825 765546.  

Seal pups

They give birth to a single pup of about 12-14kg, which the mother sniffs to learn its scent. Pups are suckled five or six times a day for 16 – 18 days, more than doubling and their weight by the time they are weaned and have moulted their white fur.

Seal surveys

The nature of a seals fur is to start white and then reveal markings after their moult. These markings allow us to identify these seals, photograph them record and build a database as to where they are and how they are doing. A network of people do this, answering new questions all the time. The Seal project covers an area of 40km around the UK Coastline from the South Hams to Dawlish.

Threats to seals

Seals nearly became extinct in the 19th century. Populations are now much more secure. Other than humans, they have no natural predators. They are badly affected by noise pollution, plastic entanglement, fishing & tourism disturbance and climate change.

Feeding seals

Please don't feed seals. We need them to survive in the most natural way possible. If you see seals up close it is tempting to offer them food so that they will come closer but it wouldn't be kind to do so. 

Noise pollution?

Seals have no coverings on their ears and have sensitive hearing. Out of the water, the seals hearing is similar to that of a human. St Andrews University has completed a study that shows seals hearing enables them to mimic human singing. They are sociable and want to communicate with others. The Monash University has also proved they use underwater clapping to communicate. Very large claps scare away threats and a lighter clap attracts a mate. If we introduce large amounts of man made noise into their environments they are scared off, leave and become confused.

Playful natures

Seals may be inquisitive when they meet you swimming or kayaking. Be gentle and quietly try to keep your distance. They are unlikely to cause any harm but may be playful. When you see them on the shore in a banana like shape, they are are raising their front and rear flippers to regulate their temperature in the shallow water. 

What can I do?

  • Help keep our beaches clean

  • Reduce the amount of single use plastics that you buy

  • Go to our action page and help the Seal Project team

  • Let us know if you see seals and take photos

  • Spread the word and raise awareness

  • If you spot a seal on a beach, give it good space.

  • Call the BDMLR on 01825 765546 if you see a seal in distress.

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