Feb 052015

Several concerned members of the public have reported visitors to wildlife areas such as the Ythan Estuary are paying no respect to the wildlife. People are ignoring signs and other visitors – and pestering the seals. It may seem cute or fun to go up close to seals – but they need to be left alone. One such walker has shared these pictures and their observations. Via Suzanne Kelly.

Photo No. 1

If you visit a wildlife area, please remember that the animals you see are not there for your entertainment.

Our wildlife is to be left alone, with the exception of the discovery of a wounded or obviously distressed creature. Anyone needing assistance or advice can call the Scottish SPCA on 03000 999 999.

Walkers have been observed scaring the seals at the Ythan. They ignored advice and pleas to back away from the animals.

When seals leave the water, they are often seeking rest after exhausting efforts to feed. Here are some photos of what not to do. If you recognise anyone in these photos, please let them know that they need to give animals a wide berth.

Photo No. 2

Said walker, who wished to remain anonymous commented:

“Couple No.1 decided to approach the seals today.

“We shouted to them to back off from the seals after they had scared the first group into the water.

“They did and stood around for a bit before deciding to ignore us and walk past the larger group of seals. 

Photo No. 3

“Couple No. 2 proceeded past Couple No.1 and stood around near the seals that were waiting for them to leave so they could haul out again.

“One young seal was still out the water on its own not far from them.

“They then walked towards the main area of seals.

seal_botherers_1_jan_15“Again we had to shout over to them to keep away from the seals before they backed off. 

“Last picture is a couple walking their dog on the other side.

Thankfully the dog was on a lead and they did give the seals a wide berth, but still a little close for comfort for us watching. 

Photo No. 5

“As we were leaving we could see more people making their way along the beach towards the seals. Clearly something needs done to protect the seals from people.

“These people obviously did not mean any harm to the seals, but were too oblivious to realise what they were doing. But what about people who might find it funny to chase or scare the seals?”

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  30 Responses to “Ignorant Walkers Disturb Estuary Seals”

  1. Seals are quite able to take care of themselves. As for “ignorant walkers”, I am unsure what you mean.

    • Duncan your expertise is clearly needed by animal welfare and government agencies round the world, here is a link to some 300K+ sites that think seals should not be disturbed by people https://www.google.co.uk/?gws_rd=ssl#q=seal%2C+and+disturbed%2C+and+hauled+out+and+people . To ignore is to pay no attention to. If someone tells you that you actions are going to disturb wildlife, but you choose not to heed that advice, you are being ignorant. Happy to have helped you understand this piece.

      • I am familiar Suzanne with the issues involved. I have visited the site on many occasions. As for your comment:
        “Duncan your expertise is clearly needed by animal welfare and government agencies round the world, here is a link to some 300K+ sites that think seals should not be disturbed by people https://www.google.co.uk/?gws_rd=ssl#q=seal%2C+and+disturbed%2C+and+hauled+out+and+people . To ignore is to pay no attention to. If someone tells you that you actions are going to disturb wildlife, but you choose not to heed that advice, you are being ignorant.” I am bemused.
        What exactly do you mean?

  2. Looking at Duncan’s “informed” comments it’s obvious that educating the public at Newburgh beach is required. Simple “graphics” type signs rather than an instruction. People like to think they are making A decision rather than being instructed what to do. Although you will still get people who know best.
    Is fencing an option?

  3. Instead of worrying about a bunch of seals and trying to shame some innocent people simply walking on the beach. Why not concentrate on shaming the farmers who mostly ignore the NVZ regulations and continue to spread muck onto fields during the closed season, the run of will poison the waters of the Ythan estuary causing far more harm to this nationally important habitat!!

    Even one of the dogy links at the bottom of the Aberdeen voice web site shows greater cruelty to that poor lizard just to get clicks and a laugh!!

    Seals swim around harbors etc where there is far more disturbance…..and to some seals are vermin?

    • I’ll leave it to others to explain why they are ‘worrying about a bunch of seals’ – but people who are told their actions are disturbing wildlife are not to me ‘innocent’. you make an excellent point about the pollution: are you willing / able to write such a piece? It would be most welcome. However – I’m at a loss about ‘dodgy links’ – AV’s website doesn’t have any advertising on it – something I’m personally very happy about. (See the ‘about’ section for more info). If you are willing to send a screen shot of the ‘dodgy links’ – I’ll be more than happy to look into this.

      • The “link” was in the “You may also like:” section showing a lizard being held in a stream of water from a tap and the poor thing was trying to climb up the water, it seems to have been taken done now… I agree with other comments, re seals being dangerous and for their own safety people should keep clear. I will consider your request for an article on the almost blatant disregard to the Aberdeenshire NVZ regs…

        Seals are fairly hardy creatures and will not be fazed by a few walkers on the beach…

      • hello – I’m waiting for someone more technical minded to look into why you get a ‘you may also like’ section – could it be your browser or where you log in from? Whether I’m travelling/home/otherwise – when I go to https://www.aberdeenvoice.com and link to the articles, I see no links to stories/ads/ anything that is not on AV. We don’t take ads; we don’t link to pages; we’re funded by donations alone. Will get back as soon as possible. Please do write that article. On a related note, some years back I seem to recall a Stewart Milne related company accidentally polluted some NE waters; I never did find out what the outcome was for the environment or if the law got involved. Will try and research. I look forward to your article in due course. But as to the seals – I go along with the widespread view that they are often exhausted and are trying to rest when hauling out – and that like all wildlife, keeping a distance is sensible and respectful.

      • Dear John – thank you for bringing this to our attention. Aberdeen Voice’s technical people looked into it and discovered that ‘shareaholic’, a system we use, had changed their service – without any notice or consultation – and started linking AV to advertising and other stories. I’m not the only person contributing to AV to be very unhappy at this development; it will be stopped. But back to the seals – seals haul out often out of exhaustion; scaring them back into the water if exhausted doesn’t do them any good. See also the link I posted in response to Duncan Harley; many wildlife experts agree: stay away from hauled out seals.

      • John, I wish to add my thanks to you for pointing out the link on our site. Like Suzanne, I was unaware that we were being linked to pages we were not responsible for posting.

        I am assured that the issue has now been sorted out, and such links will no longer appear on our pages. We don’t always have control over how updated elements of the site will behave, and where there may be potential problems, these do not always come to light immediately.

        However, with your help, and being alert to the issue, we will keep a close eye and do whatever we can, as soon as we can, to prevent such links reappearing.

        – Fred Wilkinson – Editor.

    • The things you may like section is driven by your own preferences based on sites you have already visited!

      • Thanks Vic. Aberdeen Voice should not have been linked to it or any other kind of advertising/add-on at all though.

  4. ignorant

    Lacking knowledge or awareness in general; uneducated or unsophisticated.

    Describing the walkers as ignorant was at best giving them the benefit of doubt. In reality they are behaving deliberately and recklessly towards the wildlife in the area. There is no justification for it and they are showing no respect or appreciation for our local environment.

  5. Once someone gets a nasty bite or their dog mauled they will soon get the message. seals will bite humans who get too close, they have a very powerfull bite and can quite easily bite someones hand off with a quick snap. i think it will just be a matter of time before a kid or pet dog gets seriously hurt or even killed by a seal at the ythan estuary.

  6. It should also be noted that seals can be dangerous and a bite from them could lead to very severe infections. I would definately keep my distance.

  7. I believe the dog walkers are showing great awareness of the seals. They have the dog on a lead they are approaching in full view and giving the seals a wide birth, for the contributor of the article to decide it was too close is a matter of opinion, the seals will decide and as there is no mention of a stamped into the sea, so the space given must have been acceptable to the seals. You can only judge by the photo but the seals in the foreground look relaxed and many seal colonies have become accustomed to human presence.
    Possibly an apology to the dog walkers is required by AV

    • Indeed. I agree.

    • There are two sentences relating to the dog walkers: “Last picture is a couple walking their dog on the other side.
      Thankfully the dog was on a lead and they did give the seals a wide berth, but still a little close for comfort for us watching.” As
      the people who observed them are offering a legitimate opinion, and the intent is to raise awareness, I for one don’t see any need for AV to apologise for these sentences. For me there is no doubt that the potential of the walkers/dog disturbing the seals existed. I think the photo illustrates clearly how close they were to the seals – surely there is no need to be that near.

      • Clearly the dog walkers are not ignorent or the dog would not be on the lead, they are also hugging the dune line giving as much space as possible. Who’s to say that if the seals had moved these two would of stopped and retreated. They should be held up as an example of how to behave around seals. Remember this area is not a protected seal haul out site and there are no restrictions to the public, proper behaviour should be encouraged and the photo suggests they did, yet your artical implys otherwise.

  8. Won’t somebody please think of the seals!!! hahaha

    Absurd article IMO, if the seals are not happy they’ll just swim somewhere else. Won’t be a problem for long anyway as the windfarm will either kill them or they’ll avoid the area IMO.

    • You don’t appear to be very happy Bill, perhaps you should follow the example of the seals?

  9. There can be no doubt that anyone, particularly dog – walkers, must educate themselves if they intend to engage in recreational activities, in close proximity to the natural habitat of wildlife.

    As a dog lover/walker, I had to learn some basic rules some years ago, in order to take advantage of the great outdoors, with my dog, and to do so without upset to the wildlife and/or local gamekeepers. I had no hesitation in volunteering my ignorance, when seeking information, and learned much from those who make their living in the countryside and who have a lifetime of knowledge.

    To have no knowledge of something is to be “ignorant” of the subject and I really can’t understand why so many appear to be upset by this term. Furthermore, to willfully ignore signs, in such circumstances, is both ignorant and irresponsible, in a more general sense.

    • Bruce I agree with you there are a lot of irresponsible dog owners and ramblers going about. What in the photo even remotely suggests that the dog owners are being ignorant or irresponsible? The photo of this couple should never of been posted in this story as you’ll now doubt know wild animals have a fight or flight reflex for the witness to say that they were too close to the seals without them fleeing into the sea clearly suggest that they weren’t. A responsible couple out walking their dog has been vilified in this article.

      • You ask ‘what in the photo even remotely suggests that the dog owners are being ignorant or irresponsible?’ Answer – their proximity to the seals. There is absolutely no reason or need to be walking a dog close to the animals. Believe it or not, but dogs have on occasion disobeyed their owners, lead or no lead, and wildlife has been injured and killed. You personally are happy with the distance between the seals and the dog/people – the people who were there on the day were not. This is a difference of opinion – and as they were there and you were not, there is nothing wrong with the way the matter is covered. Villified? Again – look at the two sentences, and please advise what in the article is ‘villifiying’ them. You seem rather obsessed by these two sentences; do you know the people by any chance? I can’t help but wonder.

  10. Suzanne to answer your questions no I don’t know them, I wish I did as I’d certainly be making them aware of your comments. You state they are too close from a photo taken with a long lens where the distance is misleading. You have vilified because you have a photo in an article with the title ignorant walkers. You’re obviously not reading my points so here it is again THE SEALS DIDN’T MOVE SO THEY COULDN’T OF BEEN TOO CLOSE. There is no matter of opinion if the seals move too close they don’t not too close it couldn’t be any more black or white. You make a childish reply to Duncan about his expertise maybe you should offer your services to biologists as clearly you think animals after thousands of years of evolution have been misjudging safe distances. I’m asking the more educated and unbiased editors of AV to remove the photo and all mention of the dog walkers or point out that they are an example of how to you use this stretch of beach responsibly.

    • I am glad you are so concerned for the dog walkers and for Duncan. I guess we will agree to differ. There is definitely something for dog walkers to learn from the two sentences you are so IMO overly-concerned with – and that is leave seals a respectful distance. Seals and other wildlife are not respected by all walkers and dog walkers. A fawn was ripped to pieces two years ago at Crathes by a dog that was assumed by the owners to be under their control. Seals cannot look after themselves; they are being attacked, shot and exhausted seals forced back into the water by walkers disturbing them – well meaning or not. If you can’t admit this is the case, we shall continue to disagree.

      Duncan made a sweeping, and obviously false, claim that ‘seals can look after themselves.’ This is not my opinion; it is backed up by wildlife experts, animal welfare charities, court cases about people who have killed seal pups, and so on. I gave him a link showing a host of such information disproving his claim, explaining that hauled-out seals need to be left in peace. I don’t think there is any further mileage in me continuing to re-state the obvious. But thank you for adding to the debate; it helps draw attention to the very real problem of people disturbing wildlife and in this case potentially disturbing seals. One of my many roles is as a safety rep: the basic principle of avoiding any sort of problem or accident is to take all steps to minimise risk. That’s what the dog walkers should have done – in my opinion.

  11. Sadly we witnessed at least 30 people within 5-10 yards of the seals today. Beautiful day at the estuary but not respect the colony and watch at a distance? Why not watch them like most people do, from the other side or at least from the safe distance of the dunes. It almost looked like a coach tour. Little children, families, dogs and photographers with massive lenses. One man with camera in hand walked right down to them causing about 20 resting seals to dive into the water, obviously frightened at his rapid approach. He then proceeded to film them swimming away! If they truly believe they are causing the seals no harm, I could almost understand the desire to get close as they are beautiful creatures. But, really why not leave them alone and watch at a distance like others do?

  12. People need to watch the seals from a distance, they do bite and carry bacteria that we need special antibiotics to clear. Plus the distress caused for the animals themselves is aweful, its still pupping season for greys so interfereing may cause pups to be abandoned before they should be. Also if you see a seal or cetacean in distress or wounded you can also call British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) on HOTLINE: 01825 765546 during office hours. 07787 433412 out of office hours. Thank You.

  13. Hi,

    My daughter and I went for a walk yesterday along the Ythan estuary, and I wanted to see it going into the sea, but you can imagine our surprise when we turned the corner and my daughter said she saw a seal in the water, and I said look over there, and here were hundreds of them on the river bank! None of us knew about the seals until yesterday, and it was the most gorgeous thing to see, and it made our day. What spoilt it was this couple, who went so close to them, they scared away a good lot of them, and we spoke loud enough for them to hear we were annoyed, so the woman eventually came to the bank and sat down up from us a bit, waiting for the man, and they could see we were annoyed at them, and decided to do it again, they went right over with their backs to them taking a selfie, so close to them that they all started to move again, it was so sad to see, and they knew perfectly well what they were doing, the kept looking at us and laughing. Something really needs to be done, it’s such a precious sight to see all that on our doorstep and it’s a shame idiots feel the need to ruin it for the rest of us and the seals.

    • Suzanne say – thank you for this – I hope some people will learn from it

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