England's largest grey seal colony expected to welcome 4,000 pups in record baby boom

Lisa Walden
·2-min read
Photo credit: Hanne Siebers/The National Trust
Photo credit: Hanne Siebers/The National Trust

From Country Living

Good news! England's largest grey seal colony is expected to welcome the arrival of 4,000 new pups this year in a record baby boom, the National Trust has found.

Rangers at Blakeney National Nature Reserve in Norfolk are preparing for the arrival of thousands of newborns, thanks to low levels of disturbance, no natural predators and low levels of mortality during the first few key weeks of life.

The Trust has explained that seal numbers are increasing so rapidly here that rangers are struggling to count numbers precisely. In fact, they've had to change how they record them due to the sharp rise — and are now planning an aerial count of the seal colony instead.

Photo credit: Hanne Siebers/The National Trust
Photo credit: Hanne Siebers/The National Trust
Photo credit: Hanne Siebers/The National Trust
Photo credit: Hanne Siebers/The National Trust

In the past, rangers would count the pups individually by walking carefully through the colony. But, that just isn't possible this time around.

National Trust Ranger, Leighton Newman, explained the importance of counting them correctly. She said: "When the seals first started pupping here it was really important to count the pups to help us monitor the health of the colony. More recently, however, the density of the colony has increased hugely and walking through the colony is now not safe for staff or for the seals.

Photo credit: Hanne Siebers/The National Trust
Photo credit: Hanne Siebers/The National Trust
Photo credit: Hanne Siebers/The National Trust
Photo credit: Hanne Siebers/The National Trust

"Changing the way we do things recognises that methodologies need to change over time, in response to changes to both the colony itself and the techniques available to help us study it. Over the coming years we can hopefully push forward with this new approach but also work with experts and scientists to keep up with any other new or improved methods of monitoring this important colony."

Photo credit: Hanne Siebers/The National Trust
Photo credit: Hanne Siebers/The National Trust
Photo credit: Hanne Siebers/The National Trust
Photo credit: Hanne Siebers/The National Trust

Chris Bielby, Countryside Manager for the National Trust on the North Norfolk Coast added: "Counting the colony only provides a fairly basic overview of the seal colony so we are going to work with the SMRU to do more in-depth research to better-understand why Blakeney has become such an important habitat, and to look at their behaviour to get a greater understanding of these curious creatures."

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