Second chance for injured seal
Lindisfarne NNR staff and British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) volunteers mount two rescue missions to find and rescue injured seal
21st March 2018
This week, a badly injured seal received a second chance at life after rescuers spent two days searching for him. The seal - nicknamed Rufus - was found badly entangled in rope and fishing line, with a large infected wound on his neck where the line had cut into him. He is the latest casualty of ghost fishing on the Northumberland coast.
A rescue mission was first mounted on Sunday by BDMLR volunteers Jane Hardy, Jane Lancaster and Steve Dixon after a sighting was reported to the charity, on Ross Back Sands beach, part of Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve in Northumberland. After a 4 mile trek to the beach and 5 hours of searching in hostile weathers, they reluctantly had to admit defeat for the day. Lindisfarne NNR were contacted on Monday to say that the seal had been sighted again at a remote area of the reserve. He was finally found late on Monday afternoon lying at the top of a 10 foot dune, as rescuers left the beach to avoid the oncoming tide.
Rufus, rescued 19th March 2018, Pinnacles, Ross Sands
© Natural England/Annie Ivison
'I was so relieved when I saw him,' recalls Annie Ivison, who works on the Reserve, which is managed by Natural England. ' I alerted the others, and Jane [Lancaster] and I held him still while Steve [Dixon] cut the many pieces of rope and fishing line. I can't describe the smell from the infection in its wounds - it smelt like dead, rotten flesh. It was the worst entanglement we’ve seen.'
Jane, Steve and Annie then bagged and weighed the seal for the 4 mile trek back to the car. 'The seal weighed 26kg and proved a challenge to carry even with the three of us,' says BDMLR volunteer Steve Dixon. 'We eventually made it back to the car and headed for Morris and Plumley vets to get the seal the treatment it needed.'
The Alnwick vets cleaned Rufus's wound and removed the rotten flesh, then gave him antibiotics and much needed fluid. Happily, the rescued seal was well enough to be released on Tuesday afternoon,
Despite their aching muscles and having become covered in seal poo, it was a satisfying outcome for the rescuers. Yet there is a sense of deja vu - earlier this year they rescued seal pup 'Netty' from the same beach, where she too had been badly tangled in discarded fishing gear. Annie Ivison, who is reserve manager at Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve, says the rescues highlight the dangers of marine pollution.
Netty, rescued 3rd January, Budle Bay end of Ross Sands
©Natural England/Annie Ivison
Neck wound on Netty
© Natural England/Annie Ivison
'People don't always realise the impact that litter can have - sadly, we see every day how it affects wildlife on the reserve. This year so far, amazing volunteers at Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve and Coastcare have already collected over a ton of beach debris from Reserve Beaches. If you have time, and want to help us to protect wildlife, please get in touch.
Lindisfarne NNR Staff and Volunteers cleaning the North Shore, January, 2018
©Natural England/ Annie Ivison
The Reserve office
About Lindisfarne NNR:
Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve (3,541 hectares) protects a long stretch of coast, including the dunes of Holy Island. Natural England works to ensure that the birds and plants of the area continue to survive in harmony with each other and the people who live and visit here.
About Natural England:
Natural England is the government's adviser for the natural environment in England, helping to protect England's nature and landscapes for people to enjoy and for the services they provide.