Seals travel to different locations during their lives, so for us in South Devon, we are lucky enough to regularly meet new ones, whilst those we have got to know pretty well, often move on, or return when we least expect it. Here are some of their stories.
Easter Bunny Ex entangled seal, seen in April 2020, still seen regularly in 2022
On the 5th April 2020 we came across an entangled seal in Brixham, with an industrial strength plastic bag around his neck.
We monitored him as best we could, as until a seal becomes weak or ends up hauled out somewhere accessible, on land or on a beach, there is little we can do.
As BDMLR Marine Mammal Medics (British Divers Marine Life Rescue), a voluntary charity we are also part of, we kept a close eye on the local shores, waiting for this poor seal to turn up in need of our assistance. Rescuing seals whilst in the water is not an option, as they can easily evade any attempt to get near them by swimming off at speed, even when entangled.
A week later
Exactly a week after we’d first seen him, on Easter Sunday this same seal reappeared, resting in the same location – but thankfully minus the entanglement and seemed none the worse for his ordeal. We named him ‘Easter Bunny’ after the time of year, and because we could see a ‘bunny’ shape in his ‘pelage’ (fur pattern).
He’s is one very lucky, inquisitive seal who seemingly suffered no injuries. He did have bald patches around his neck, but this was not due to the entanglement. This gorgeous seal maintained a regular pattern of behaviour.
Creature of habit
He would haul out on the iron girder, which forms part of the Marina’s protective wave screen barrier, resting in the same location for a number of days. He would then disappear for a few days, presumably to feed, and then re-appear, in the same spot, showing off some funky seal-style yoga moves, watching the world go by on what can’t possibly be a comfy spot!
So we thought this was as good as the story gets. Entangled seal appears, entanglement gone, happy ending.
But on going though photos researching a different seal – we spotted a little face we instantly recognised, in the company of the male we were researching. The original Bunny marking isn’t the easiest to pick out – especially from different angles, but you can see along side the original bunny shape is a letter ‘A’. Not that such a cute face needed much identifying, but you can clearly see this is the same seal by these markings. Rewarding but exhausting.
But we didn’t want to see another seal entangled like Easter Bunny on our patch.
Pandemic Litter Pick
As the pandemic escalated, restrictions were put in place, but fortunately our daily exercise allowed us to maintain surveys to the Marina area and we recorded all his sightings, with help from a few other locals who also reported his antics. He enjoyed the best of the lockdown, resting in a quiet location, where he could safely monitor anyone or anything coming towards him, with easy access at any point to deep water.
Whilst he was enjoying his new found freedom, we used our daily exercise time to litter pick. And we went BIG! We went rock climbing! Litter picking big style - hands and knees, on the rocks of
the breakwater, removing crazy amounts of litter - 226 sacks of marine debris in all.
Netting, rope, shoes, crisp packets, glass bottles. polystyrene, tooth brushes, milk cartons, socks, razors, angling lines, bottles of stinky disgusting stuff, socks, dog poo bags, christmas decorations, hair combs, jumpers, parts of clothing. Its an endless list and an endless task. Entangled rope and netting that you could never un-entangle if your life depended on it! It was an endless task but one we took on until we broke. We ached. We were donated bags and gloves from Keep Britain Tidy, and had help from Torbay Harbour Authority and Tor2 who removed the endless sacks. Breakwater Bistro let us use a trolley to cart the sacks up and down the breakwater with - and many lovely people helped us carry sacks back - and a lovely lady made us hand balm... very much needed!
After some very strange months, restrictions were eased and there was suddenly much more traffic on the water, and as a result we observed many kayak, boat and paddleboard disturbances. He learnt from this so took to staying away for longer periods, which was no doubt safer for him.
Easter Bunny was then seen for the first time, not far his usual spot, with an adult female in July 2021. Although not related, adult seals often find themselves being brief guardians to juvenile seals, who need to learn a few social skills. One of the most common misconceptions we hear is that “I’ve see a mum and pup” swimming together – this is highly unlikely. Most likely a young seal following an adult seal for social interaction and life lessons!
Since this time Easter Bunny has been seen numerous times in various locations, as well as his favoured haul out.
Seen recently when he and a number of other seals, including an entangled juvenile female, a few adult female seals who would at this time be in mid stages of pregnancy - were flushed from the rocks on which they were resting by a private rib boat. The people on board seemingly had no understanding of the stress they had caused to the disturbed seals.
The worst part was not knowing where he went during this time. This is why we ask you, the public to share any clear seal sightings with us, with dates and locations. We can then add this to each seals recorded timeline. And if we don’t know it – we can always ask you to name it!
We had been surveying this area for over an hour prior to this and at no point did any of the seals react. Credit to Lee our skipper for his careful handling of the boat, keeping the engine low and slow enabling us to take photographs of all the seals for identification purposes.
To see Easter Bunny relaxing - until this point was beautiful. However he is looking great and he's doing so well. Long may we continue to see him.
Easter Bunny has been seen a number of locations, back in his initial location, but not in the same spot. This is quite interesting to observe, but he still has is individual ways. At around 3 years old his personality traits remain the same, but we love him for it.