A seal pictured with a Frisbee stuck around its neck on an Aberdeenshire beach may have been living with it for months, a wildlife expert has said.
Several visitors to Newburgh Beach have reported the seal, which appears to have grown while trapped in the Frisbee, to conservation group Ythan Seal Watch (YSW).
Lee Watson, who runs the group, added that they may only have a “couple of months” before it starts to cut into the seal’s flesh and causes an infection that can’t be fought off – and it may already be making it hard to swallow fish.
He said: “When seals are swimming, snuffling about on the sea bed or floating in the water, they swim with their neck stretched out.
“It goes in over their head, then when they compress their neck again it doesn’t come back off.
“If that was to happen to an adult seal, and they don’t have much growing to do, then it doesn’t become too big a problem – it’ll cause irritation but it won’t be a fatal injury.
“But when it happens to the smaller ones like this, obviously they grow and the entanglement doesn’t grow with them.”
The SSPCA and British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) are working alongside YSW to try and free the animal, but the effort comes with complications.
The area is blocked off due to nesting seabirds, and the teams must be careful not to disturb the rest of the seal’s colony and allow it to escape into the water before it can be helped.
In the meantime, members of the public who are visiting Newburgh Beach are asked to follow signage and stay well away from the colony, but to continue sending images of the afflicted seal to YSW so they can monitor its condition.
‘Be responsible on the beach’
Lee, who is also a medic with the BDMLR, advised people to “be responsible with the things that you take down” to the beach.
He said: “If you’re taking a Frisbee down for your dog, just make sure it’s a solid Frisbee rather than something the seal can get its head into.
“If you are on a walk on the beach and you do see objects like these, move them up to the top of the tide line so they don’t end up in the water, and take everything away with you – don’t leave rubbish on the beach when you visit.”