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Iceni Magazine | April 24, 2024

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Preparing for the 2020 Grey Seal Pupping Season

Preparing for the 2020 Grey Seal Pupping Season

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.

Despite a difficult year for everyone with the Covid 19 restrictions, a record number of grey seals are expected to haul out onto Horsey and Winterton Beaches from late October to give birth to their distinctive white furred pups. 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 male bull seals fighting each other for the privilege to mate with the cows. Last year more than 2000 pups were born.

With well over a hundred thousand visitors, the wardens play a vital role to protect the seal colony from unnecessary human disturbance. While most visitors are respectful of the seal’s 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.

Photo: Glenn Mingham

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 and 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. It 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. They are caught in special net aimed at minimising trauma and taken off the beach in a stretcher designed specifically for seals made of wide webbing. They are transported to the RSPCA Hospital at East Winch. Recently a young seal, nicknamed Galactica, was discovered entangled in netting, which had been there for some time.  When a Vet removed it, he discovered a deep wound round her neck.  She receiving treatment and now recovering.

Photo: Mike Harmer

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. The charity says they have a responsibility to prepare and be ready.

Jane Bowden, the FoHS Recruitment Coordinator, says ‘ that is why 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’

Friends of Horsey Seals (FoHS)

Photo: FoHS A seal warden on duty

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 via email


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