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Ythan seals: Public urged to keep distance if young pups wash up on north-east shores

The public has been asked not to approach any young seals that are washed up on shores around the north-east, as pupping seasons begins.

Visitors to Newburgh beach are also being urged to be particularly careful with keeping their distance, after video was released of a pup born there late last month.

Just one seal pup is usually born each year on the site at the mouth of the River Ythan, despite the vast numbers that can be seen there at certain times of the year.

All the mothers from the beach travel to other parts of Scotland, such as the Isle of May, to have their pups – except for one, nicknamed Eagle, who had her latest on November 29.

The birth of her pup signals the beginning of a sensitive period for the colony, as very young seals covered in their juvenile white fur will soon arrive on the Aberdeenshire shoreline alongside their returning mothers.

A seal in the water at Newburgh Beach, Aberdeenshire. Picture by Colin Rennie

They will be particularly vulnerable to separation and must be taught to swim before it burns through its finite reserves of fat, or they will become malnourished, weak and ill.

There are information signs asking people to visit without disturbing the animals as it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly harass seals at a haul out site, and people – particularly dog walkers – are being urged to follow the instructions and keep their distance.

A police spokeswoman said: “The best place to view the seals would be from the south side of the estuary at Newburgh. If you do see anyone disturbing the seals deliberately then please report it by contacting us on 101.”

Pups washing up

Predicted stormy weather over winter may lead people to encounter isolated pups on beaches near them.

Lee Watson, the leader of the Ythan Seal Watch group, said: “Between the weather, the wind and the other storms we might get, we might start to find very young seal pups that are not well fed or injured, and they might start washing up on shores around the north-east coast.

“They could appear on beaches anywhere – it’s not just the Ythan.”

He added: “If you find any pups washing up, keep children away from them, keep dogs on a lead and keep a safe distance.

“Contact the British Divers Marine Life Rescue for advice.”

Safe from storm

Thankfully, the seals on Newburgh Beach were not impacted by the recent storms Arwen or Barra.

At the St Abbs pupping site in the Borders, an estimated 800 young seals died in the last weekend of November when Storm Arwen hit.

Mr Watson explained: “They tend to be OK at the Ythan, they’ve got a lot of shelter there and with it being an estuary there’s more room for them to move around.

“They also move further up the coast to get shelter from the large dune systems at Forvie.”

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