Norfolk

Blakeney seal pup drop is 'good news' for reserve

A seal lying upside down Image copyright Ian Ward
Image caption Seal numbers have risen from about 200 in 2006 to a peak of 2,342 recorded at Blakeney this year

The number of seals born at England's largest colony has dropped for the first time after nine years of growth.

The National Trust counted 2,342 pups born this season at Blakeney in Norfolk - about 80 fewer than last year.

Ajay Tegala, National Trust ranger, said: "This is good news as the seals were spreading at such a rate over such a big area that it makes it easier to protect them."

The Trust said the lower birth rate meant the colony had "stabilised".

Image copyright Ian Ward
Image caption One of the 2,342 grey seal pups born at the National Trust's Blakeney National Nature Reserve
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The breeding colony occupies a 1.5 mile stretch of beach and dunes on the shingle spit, which is four miles long

After grey seals began colonising the spit on the north Norfolk coast, the Trust said there was anecdotal evidence of two pups being born in 1987 or 1988 and a first "official" record of five pups in 1999.

A more accurate standardised method of counting pups began in 2006 when 213 were recorded.

Blakeney seal pup numbers

2,342

recorded in 2015

  • 2,426 (2014)

  • 1,566 (2013)

  • 747 (2010)

  • 213 (2006)

Martin Barber

The Trust has 12 volunteers to try and make sure people visiting with their dogs did not disturb the breeding colony.

Mr Tegala said: "The seals have filled the key habitats on Blakeney, so it's good news the population has stabilised this year.

"If they continued to spread into the dunes and along the beach towards Cley, this would make them harder to protect.

"When a breeding site becomes too densely populated, grey seals tend to colonise new habitats and there is already anecdotal evidence seals from the Norfolk colonies at Blakeney and Horsey have moved south to the Thames estuary and northern France."

The Trust said it was estimated more than 750 pups had been born at Horsey this year.

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