Wicklow County Council is reminding beach users, and particularly dog owners, to avoid disturbing seals when they visit the coast at this time of year.
September to December is a particularly important time for grey seals as it is the breeding season during which time the adults seek safe sites to ‘haul out’ on land.
These are beaches where the animals return year after year to breed, rest, moult and engage in social activity. It is also the time when they give birth to a single pup which is born with distinctive white fur and needs to stay on land for a number of weeks while it is being weaned by its mother.
In recent weeks there have been a number of sightings of seal pups all along the Wicklow coast and this is a time when they are particularly vulnerable to disturbance by humans and dogs. It is important to note that ‘disturbance’ can easily occur when seals become aware of human presence even at a distance.
People and dogs are asked to maintain a minimum distance of 100m from seals that are on land as coming close to them will cause stress and can lead to the abandonment of pups by mothers.
Orphaned pups have very little chance for survival and often Seal Rescue Ireland (SRI) must intervene by bringing a seal into rehabilitation whereas without human disturbance the pup would have been successfully cared for and weaned in the wild.
If any member of the public comes across a seal it is very important to keep a distance, never touch and never attempt to return a young animal to the sea.
The Wicklow coast is a much-valued public amenity and the public can play a huge role in helping to conserve this protected species. Seals are legally protected under the Wildlife Act and it is illegal and dangerous to approach them or to allow dogs to do so.
The Municipal Districts of Wicklow and Greystones are working in tandem with Seal Rescue Ireland to raise public awareness of this issue by erecting information signs at known ‘haul out’ sites and restricting access to these areas as required.
For more information and to report sightings: www.sealrescueireland.org and Seal Rescue Hotline T: 087 1955393.