Grey seal pupping season has started in the North West

For the third year running, a grey seal pup has been born at South Walney Nature Reserve, on Walney Island, Cumbria.

Over the last few decades, the number of grey seals hauling out to rest on the protected beach of Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s South Walney Nature Reserve has been increasing. Two years ago the first ever pup to be born on South Walney was spotted as part of a routine seal survey. That year, two pups were born.

Grey seals have an annual, synchronous breeding cycle. Females grey seals give birth to a single pup each autumn at the same time each year. They usually return to breed year on year in the same location. Towards the end of the weaning period the seals will mate again.

Emily Baxter, Senior Marine Conservation Officer for the North West Wildlife Trusts said: "The first pup of this year was spotted on exactly the same day as the first pup last year. It is likely that it was the same mother coming back to have another pup here at that same time as she did last year. We will be attempting to work out if this is the case using photo identification, comparing the unique markings on the mothers from last year and this year."

The establishment of a breeding colony on South Walney is an encouraging indication that grey seals are thriving on Walney Island and around the UK, with numbers on the increase.

Last year, it was hoped that two pups might be born following the surprise births in 2015, but we were even more surprised when five pups were born! Who knows, if we are lucky we may get even more pups this year!

Due to the young age of the seal, it is incredibly vulnerable to disturbance, which would cause the mother to abandon it and the pup to starve. For this reason, there is strictly no access to the area of the nature reserve where the seal pup is, and so it is not possible to view the pup at South Walney Nature Reserve.

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