40% of the world population of Grey Seals
and 95% of the EC population live around the coasts of Britain.
colonies of Grey Seal are found off both the east and the
west coast of Britain, but since the early 1990's Grey Seals
have been seen off Walney island (they have been present off
the Isle of Man for many years previous to that). Increasing
numbers now haul out on the spit at South Walney, with between
20 and 50 usually present and occasionally over 100, and similar
numbers may be present in summer at a low water haul out on
a Solway sandbank. Visitors to the CWT Reserve on South Walney
usually have a good chance of seeing them from the Groyne
are regular sightings on the coast all year round from the
Solway right round to Morecambe Bay, even as far in as Arnside.
It is known that Grey Seals are long distance swimmers and
that there is movement between Cumbria, the Isle of Man, Galloway
or even Ireland. The marine group of Cumbria Wildlife Trust
is carrying out extensive survey work and recording facial
markings, which are then exchanged with other groups to see
whether recognition is possible.
is not known at present whether they produce pups in the area
or exactly how the population varies during the year. In winter
numbers tend to be lower than in the summer, presumably because
the females and a number of mature males have travelled to
pupping/breeding sites, but 25-35 is not uncommon off Walney.
U.K.'s largest native mammal, the Grey or Atlantic Seal, may
be up to 3 metres long and weigh 300kg. They are recognised
by their elongated head and Roman nose (the Common Seal, which
is actually less common, is smaller and has a snub nose).
Grey Seal coats are spotted and vary in colour from dark grey,
through silver, to brown; the pattern of blotches around the
head and neck is unique to each individual and this can be
used in identification.
the years, Grey Seals have experienced an on-off relationship
with conservation. When numbers fell to less than 500 around
the UK in the early part of the 20th century, the first mammal
protection conservation legislation in the UK was passed.
This was revoked during the 1970's and 1980's as fish stocks
were supposedly being threatened by large numbers of Grey
Seals. New bans on hunting came into force a few years after
this, as a result of public pressure.
Grey Seals are produced during September and October and have
an attractive white fur but this is shed after about 3 weeks.
They are so approachable that killing them is easy - they were
invariably clubbed to death to preserve their fur intact.
are very occasional sightings of Common Seal
around the west Cumbrian coast and in recent years several pups
have been born at midsummer on the Duddon Estuary. They are
also recorded sometimes in Morecambe Bay in the Ulverston Channel
and off Humphrey Head.