Steer clear of seals: Welfare workers urge public to give the mammals space in the wake of shocking death of Thames favourite Freddie after dog attack
- Campaigners say seals must be given space in the wake of death of seal Freddie
- Owners are urged to keep dogs on a lead when seals might be present
- Thames seal Freddie had to be put down after being attacked by a dog
Seals must be given space by the public in the wake of the death of popular Thames seal Freddie, campaigners say.
As people head to the coasts for the Easter weekend, a government-backed initiative will warn them to stay well away from the marine mammals.
Owners are urged to keep dogs on a lead when seals might be present, never to feed them, and to take litter home.
Freddie Mercury pictured with an injured flipper following the mauling. Seals must be given space by the public in the wake of his death
It comes after the Thames seal, named Freddie Mercury, had to be put down after being attacked by a dog.
The Seal Alliance has warned that disturbing seals can injure and kill mothers and pups up to several months later.
Both Britain’s grey and common seal populations are showing signs of decline in breeding, experts warned.
Just 25 per cent of youngsters survive to 18 months in a bad year.
The ‘give seals space’ campaign gives guidance on how to watch seals safely.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: ‘Disturbance by members of the public can be detrimental to seals but this is entirely preventable.
‘I’d urge everyone to follow the guidance, give seals the space they need and respect this vulnerable species.’
The push to protect seals from human disturbance comes as people are expected to go for walks on coasts and estuaries, take part in water activities or fly drones over the Easter weekend as lockdown measures ease.
The UK is home to an estimated 38% of the world’s grey seal population and around 30% of the European subspecies of common or harbour seals, but both species are showing signs of declines in breeding.
They face threats including climate change, toxic pollution, entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with vessels, plastics and other marine debris and human disturbance, experts warn.
Female seals are heavily pregnant or pupping during the summer and getting too close can lead to the mammals stampeding on rocks which prove fatal to mothers and pups, while disturbed females may also not build up the fat reserves they need to feed their young properly.
The ‘give seals space’ campaign includes leaflets and signs for the public and wildlife tour operators with guidance on how to watch seals without disturbing them.
Andy Ottaway, of the Seal Protection Action Group, added: ‘Our precious coastal wildlife is coming under increasing human pressure.
‘We need to be aware of the harm we can cause by getting too close to our seals and the often tragic consequences when we do.’