'Seal selfies' harming animals on Yorkshire coast, charity says

Image source, Matt Barnes
Image caption,
This seal pup is underweight after being disturbed, a rescue charity said

Visitors to the Yorkshire coast have been upsetting seals by trying to get selfies with the animals, a wildlife charity has warned.

Uncontrolled dogs, drones and coastal explorers have distressed seals, leading to them needing rescue, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) said.

It has come in a summer that saw many people head to the English seaside when the coronavirus lockdown was eased.

The charity has asked people to give the animals space.

MCS said it had received a "concerning" number of calls relating to wildlife being disturbed on the Yorkshire coast.

In the past few weeks, seal pups have had to be rescued from Filey and Bridlington after their mothers left them to fend for themselves.

Matt Barnes, a volunteer from MCS, said although seals might look docile, they were wild and strong animals.

"Seals are very vulnerable to disturbance, which upsets their routine of feeding and digestion, increases their use of energy, raises their stress levels and means they are more likely to injure themselves," he said.

Image source, Matt Barnes
Image caption,
Seals should be given space or they could get stressed and injure themselves, the charity said

Mr Barnes said as lockdown was lifted more visitors had headed to the coast, which had upset local seal colonies.

"This has manifested in people seeking 'seal selfies', having uncontrolled dogs off the leads, drones, water craft and coastal explorers disturbing vital haul out sites," he said.

Seal pupping season has started, meaning young, weaning pups and their mothers need space.

If they were disturbed, the pups could be abandoned and left to fend for themselves.

Leaving the animals alone, keeping noise to a minimum and ensuring dogs were on leads were some of the things needed to keep the animals calm, MCS said.

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