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Seal of approval

Olly and I take our cattle from a ‘walk round the block’ to try and keep their hooves in good condition. Una and Tom are always keen for nuts (hard cattle feed) and will follow the bucket very closely - always a bit concerning with their horns trying to nudge you out of the way to get to the bucket!

One afternoon during Inbetwixtmas (between Christmas and New Year) we were walking the cattle and walked past a seal pup on the grass verge next to the road.

He was incredibly thin, and was sure to die there, so I picked him up and carried him back. While walking back, with seal in my arms, and cows behind me, I felt a very warm trickle down my front - the pup had wee-d on me - not nice!

Once I had put him in the safety of the garden I helped Olly get the cattle back in their field, before changing into something clean and dry.

I quickly googled something appropriate to feed the pup - google recommended lambs milk powder and and oily fish blended into a fishy milkshake. I did so and loaded a lambs milk bottle with the delightful concoction.

The seal was very weak, and wasn’t keen on feeding, but we kept persevering, moving him into the shower in the shepherd's hut to keep him warm.

Alas, that night he passed away. It was very sad, but we gave him a chance. Unfortunately he was just too undernourished by the time we found him.


When I had picked him up I had given Olly the decision on taking hime back to the beach or trying to feed him back to health.

I hadn’t wanted to make the decision myself. Knowing how underweight he was, it didn’t look promising, and I had seen enough dead seal pups to last a lifetime already. *

* In a former life I was a seal biologist, and I spent 16 months in the sub-Antarctic (on an island called Bird Island, near South Georgia) as a research assistant for the British Antarctic Survey - a long term monitoring study that collected information on Antarctic fur seals, and other marine predators. During my second summer over 40% of the seal pups died (plus all the gentoo penguin chicks on the island). Both of these predators rely on krill to survive, however it was an El Niño year, and the krill had moved too far away for the seals and penguins to feed, leaving their offspring to starve on the beaches. Who I then had to post-mortem for the study.

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