The Natureland Seal Sanctuary in Skegness has ‘never been busier’ after it was inundated with record numbers of seals over Christmas in the wake of last month’s devastating tidal surge.
The record-breaking high tide which swamped parts of Lincolnshire and Norfolk in early December played havoc with grey seal populations in the two counties at the height of their breeding season.
Although the seal colony at Donna Nook in the north of Lincolnshire appeared to lose relatively small numbers of pups thanks to last ditch efforts by wardens to remove the beach fencing, the north winds that accompanied the surge battered the colonies on the more exposed Norfolk coastline.
And Natureland was almost literally left with ‘no more room at the inn’ over Christmas, after taking in a record number of rescues as the lost and malnourished seals began to wash ashore.
The sanctuary wasn’t alone in reporting a busy period over Christmas - sanctuaries at Cleethorpes and Mablethorpe were forced to send some of their rescues to Skegness.
The arrival of so many seals temporarily filled up the Skegness site’s seal hospital and also packed out the pools, leaving the popular sanctuary facing a colossal feeding bill.
Natureland’s Richard Yeadon said: “We’ve never had it so busy all in one go. It was particularly busy over the Christmas period - there was no more room at the inn and we were dreading the next call.
“We’re still nearly full but in the next week we should be able to shift more of the seals from hospital into the pool area - things might just ease up.”
“We’ve been keeping our fingers crossed that there are no more damaging tides, but if there are, and seals need help, we’ll always go out to them.”
He continued: “We deal with 30 to 40 seal rescues over the course of a year and they come in at a steady rate. But we had 14 in from December 1 onwards - and especially after the surge.
“There wasn’t a lot happening for a day or two after the surge but then all hell broke loose between the 16th and Christmas.
“We’ve got enormous fish bills as well - each seal costs us just under £2,000 to feed, go through the rehab process and release, so 14 in December up to Christmas does add to our expenses somewhat at a quiet time of the year.”
He added that most of the rescued seals were now “heading in the right direction” but some of the pups were “slow to catch on” to hand feeding and this meant an especially hectic Christmas for the staff.
“We had to get on top of some of the seals and help the fish down - all while everyone else was tucking into their turkey and gin and tonic on Christmas Day,” joked Richard.
Any financial help with the site’s food bills would be appreciated by Natureland.