Nearly half of the world’s population of Grey Seals are to be found around our coastline so their protection is of international conservation importance. Larger than Common Seals and with speckled coats we think we’re so lucky when walking along our beautiful beaches to see those familiar long-pointed heads pop up in the waves. Between October and December large numbers of pregnant females return to give birth to their pups which certainly have the “cute” factor with fluffy white fur and big dark eyes. They grow very quickly and can put on 2 kg per day, fed on a rich diet of milk which is 60% fat. After only 3 weeks their mothers will leave them and over the following weeks they do not feed, relying on their fat reserves until they have moulted their white coat to become fully waterproof and make their way to the sea where they have to quickly learn to feed themselves.
In 2012 The Friends of Horsey Seals was set up to formalise the work of volunteer wardens monitoring the seals after funding cuts to Natural England. The aim of FOHS is to protect the grey seal population from disturbance by the public as thousands of people visit the most popular site at Horsey during the course of the winter and sometimes, due to a lack of understanding, not only put themselves at risk by getting too close to seals and pups on the beach as these are wild animals with a nasty bite if they feel threatened. Mothers will abandon their pups if disturbed by people or dogs. Well-meaning visitors have tried to push pups into the sea believing they had been abandoned by their mothers but pups are unable to swim until they have lost their white coat and can easily drown. They are regularly left alone on the beach for short spells while their mother is close by feeding and she will return soon.
The Friends of Horsey Seals provide volunteer seal wardens, trained to recognise and understand the needs of the seals and equipment to step in to help rescue pups if needed. They aim to ensure that visitors take advantage of the viewing points in the dunes where they can safely observe the seals without causing disturbance and answer questions from visitors to improve understanding of the seal colony.
We offer an optional £1 donation to The Friends of Horsey Seals on every booking made at Dairy Barns. We hope you’ll help us support their work by ticking the box on our booking farm to give just £1 when you come to stay at Dairy Barns. We hope to raise around £700 over the course of the year which will help provide posts and ropes to mark paths and train and equip volunteers as well as pay for their second-hand 4-wheel drive vehicle for seal rescues.
If you’d like to support them, why not buy a membership to Friends of Horsey Seals. Just £5.50 gives regular newsletters and members’ access to their website. Please see www.friendsofhorseyseals.com or if you’re lucky enough to visit the seals at Horsey, speak to a volunteer, pick up a leaflet and maybe buy a souvenir.