A RESCUED seal pup became the 600th to be released back into its natural environment by Skegness Natureland last Tuesday.
Despite the choppy waters, misty weather and his ill-tempered name, Grumpy the grey seal seemed very happy to be reunited with his friends in the North Sea.
Avid Natureland supporter and Mayor of Skegness Coun Sue Binch helped the sanctuary’s co-proprietor Duncan Yeadon to release the marine mammal from Skegness Beach.
“I always think it is very emotional when you put the seals back into the wild again - it’s a marvellous sight when you see them in their natural environment,” Sue said.
“Hats off to Natureland because they do a fantastic job.”
Grumpy was rescued from the beach at Chapel Point in January when he was just three weeks old.
He was very weak, dehydrated and under half the weight he should have been.
However thanks to the dedicated care given by the Natureland staff and a diet of top quality herring, he was soon nursed back to full strength and ready to fend for himself.
Natureland seals have been spotted as far away as northern France and the Farne Islands of the Northumbrian coast.
All the rescued seals this season have been given Disney character names and Grumpy was so called because of his species’ tendency to be more tempestuous than their cousins.
Grey seals are also reared differently to the common seal.
They spend their first few weeks entirely on land on a rich diet of mother’s milk.
After separating from their mothers the seals have a steep learning curve to enable themselves to catch their own food.
“At four weeks old they have never even been in water let alone caught a fish,” Duncan explained.
Some, like Grumpy, need a little more encouragement and the Natureland staff have to force feed them until they associate the fish with sustenance.
The first seal to be rescued by Natureland was in 1965 and since then the centre has developed and refined its method of nursing the seals back to health.
“Over the years the annual total has increased to such a point now that we are averaging 30 to 40 pups per year,” added Duncan. “At roughly £2,000 per pup to rescue, care for, rehabilitate and release, you can see that raising funds is vital.”
As well as seals, Natureland has also rescued sea birds, dolphins and porpoises.
It also rescued one of the only walruses to be seen off British shores in 200 years in 1981.