One of Norfolk’s annual winter wildlife spectacles is underway with the first grey seal pup spotted at Blakeney National Nature Reserve, cared for by the National Trust, on the north Norfolk coastline, six days later than last year.
The very first seal pup was born at the point in 1988. Since then, the site has grown to become England’s largest grey seal colony, with the numbers born increasing from just 25 pups in 2001 to 4,000 in 2020.
It’s believed this is due to low levels of disturbance and mortality during the first few key weeks of life and a lack of natural predators.
This year, National Trust rangers are anticipating around 4,500 new arrivals at Blakeney Point. Global numbers are estimated to be around 300,000 with British and Irish waters supporting about 40 per cent of the grey seal population.
The colony at Blakeney has now become so large that it is almost impossible to record the number of pups precisely. Until a few years ago, the pups were counted individually by rangers and volunteers walking carefully through the colony, but from last year, numbers of new-borns and weaned pups – which will have moulted their white fur but will be much smaller than the adults – were recorded in just one specific area to give an indication of the overall size of the colony.
Due to increasing numbers of seals each year, Chris Bielby, Countryside Manager for the National Trust on the North Norfolk Coast said: “We’re really proud to announce the birth of the first pup of the season, it’s always a special moment in our year.
“Female grey seals typically live to around 35 years old. They have their first pup at about 3-5 years old. Once they’ve had their first pups, they return to the same place each year to give birth.
“Our job now over the coming weeks is to try to ensure that the seals remain undisturbed so that they can give birth in peace, and to ensure they don’t abandon their pups which would mean that they wouldn’t survive.
“Seals are wild animals and can be dangerous, particularly if they feel threatened. We therefore ask visitors to keep their distance. Bring binoculars to help you see the seals better.”
Since the first pup was seen, another five seal pups have been spotted further along the Point.
For more information on how to see the seal pups on Blakeney Point check out our website: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/blakeney
Header image: Hanne Siebers/National Trust.