The first seal pup of the year has been born on the Farne Islands off the Northumberland Coast, marking the start of this year’s annual seal count by the Islands’ resident Rangers.
Every year, over 1500 pups are born on the islands, which is the largest Atlantic grey seal colony in England. Rangers from conservation charity the National Trust spend three months each autumn monitoring the success rate of the breeding seals. Last year a total of 1575 pups were born taking the overall Farnes population to an estimated 5000.
David Steel, Lead Ranger for the Farne Islands told us:
“A typical day for me and the team in autumn includes landing on the Seal colonies to monitor the birth of pups. Once born, we spray them with a harmless dye. This can be quite tricky as the mothers seals are protective and can be aggressive if we get too close. We use a different colour dye each week which enables us to keep a close count.
“Every year we also satellite tag one or two adult seals to find out more about their movements at sea. It’s using this technology that we found one seal from the Farne Islands had travelled as far as the coast of the Netherlands last year.”
As this year’s seal breeding season gets underway, the National Trust is offering visitors to the Islands a unique opportunity to get up close to these fascinating mammals.
From today until Friday 31 October, tours will take place daily with boats leaving from Seahouses Harbour. You’ll be joined by a National Trust Ranger for a full guided tour of Staple Island where you will find out about their experiences working with seals.
David Steel said: “There isn’t anywhere else in England where visitors can get as close as this to Atlantic grey seals, particularly during the pupping season. This is a really special time at the Farnes and one which not many people get to see, so these tours really do offer a unique experience.”
National Trust Rangers are committed to ensuring that the tours cause no undue disturbance to the seals and that visitors are within a safe viewing distance from the breeding mammals. The tours are all weather permitting and National Trust is advising that people should wear sturdy footwear and warm clothing, including waterproofs.
The breeding season for seals on the Farnes can sometimes start as early as September with the majority of pups being born in October and November. Although the pups can swim at an early age they don’t normally leave the breeding colony until they have been weaned and moulted their white coats.
Tours cost £10 for adults and £5 for children, including National Trust members. For more information visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/northeast.
There will be an additional charge for boat trips that go to or sail around the Islands payable direct to the boat companies. To book your boat trip call Billy Shiel’s on (01665) 720 316 or evening (01665) 720 308; Serenity boat company on (01665) 721 667 or evening (01665) 720 760; or Golden Gate on 07904800590, 07904749128 or evening (01665) 721819.