CONSERVATIONISTS are warning the public to avoid contact with seals along the Wearside coast as the pupping season gets under way.
The charity British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), which has a volunteers in Sunderland, responds to stricken marine mammals on the UK coastline.
Richard Ilderton, regional co-ordinator, said that seals could attack if they felt threatened.
“Grey seal pups can often be found hauled out on beaches and rocks on our coastline as they learn to fend for themselves once they have left their mother at a month old,” he said.
“Ordinarily they are fit and well, merely resting after fishing in the North Sea and we would urge the public to leave them alone.
“Seal pups, while looking cute and cuddly are a wild animal and will defend themselves if they feel threatened by people approaching them.
“They have exceptionally sharp teeth and as a wild animal, carry bacteria in their mouths which can harm both people and other animals such as dogs.”
Mr Ilderton said that if anyone finds a seal pup on the shoreline, keep a safe distance, keep dogs well away, or if they are in any way concerned, contact the charity.
“Most seals will snort and hiss at someone getting too close to themand will also lift themselves up on one flipper to make themselves appear larger,” he said.
This can be mistaken for illness or that they have an injury to one of their flippers.
“BDMLR-trained marine mammal medics can assess and capture injured or sick seals and are able to transport them for treatment and rehabilitation.”
Earlier this year, a stricken seal which was flown 200 miles for urgent specialist care after being found washed-up on Wearside was returned to the wild.
Samson the seal was found at Hendon docks, badly injured, covered in cuts and unable to move.
The BDMLR was called in to help rescuers, who faced a race against time to recover the mammal.
After reaching her, Samson was rushed to Ayres Vets, North Shields, where she was stabilised.
However, it became clear specialist treatment would be necessary in order to save her life, which was only available 200 miles away in Norfolk.
Facing a race against time and unlikely to survive the journey by road, Samson was taken to Newcastle Airport and flown to the RSPCA’s East Winch Wildlife Centre by a light aircraft.
Almost eight weeks later, Samson completed was released into waters at Norfolk in March.