Dog walkers have been urged to keep their pets on a lead at a protected seal colony in Aberdeenshire after an out-of-control dog attacked a young pup as emerged from the water.
The youngster is feared to have sustained facial injuries in the incident near Newburgh before escaping back into the River Ythan.
Members of the Ythan Seal Watch group have made a plea for pet owners to take care – not only to protect the seal population but also their own animals.
Visitors to the southern beach at the mouth of the River Ythan near Newburgh spotted the dog running on the sand without a lead.
On the northern side of the river lies a protected colony of hundreds of seals who rest on the sands and raise their young there.
Although visitors are not permitted on the northern side, they are encouraged to go and watch the charismatic marine mammals from the safety of the south shoreline.
Venturing too close to the colony can cause them to panic, creating dangerous situations for their little pups.
The seals do, however, sometimes venture across the water, and at around 12.40pm on Tuesday a dog started barking and running around a young seal which had come on to the beach, biting at its tail.
After a passer-by managed to intervene, the seal escaped into the water, but it is believed to have suffered an injury to its eyes.
Lee Watson, organiser of the Ythan Seal Watch group, said the incident was a good lesson in how important it is to keep pets on a lead in the area, for the safety of both the seals and visitors’ four-legged friends.
He said: “At this time of year we expect to see a few of them on the Newburgh side.
“The beach is quieter and there are fewer visitors and the younger seals sometimes come out of the water on the south side.
“When you’re near the haul-out, we would advise you to keep your dog on a lead just for overall safety.
“A lot of dog walkers come to the beach and there are rarely any problems, but it’s the best thing to do for the seals and dogs.
“Seals can match dogs bite for bite. They can be as powerful as a Rottweiler because they need strong jaws and sharp teeth to catch swimming fish.
“It’s just best to do everything we can to stop incidents like this. A wild animal will defend itself if it feels frightened.
“And a bite or even a scratch from a seal could really cause serious problems for a dog.
“The pet would need to be treated with antibiotics immediately.”
The colony of seals at the River Ythan is protected by law. Anyone who sees the animals being intentionally disturbed or harassed is urged to call the police on 101.