How you can help marine mammals in need:

If you find a live seal

Watch it from a distance. Do not approach the animal. Seals regularly haul out on our coasts - it is part of their normal behaviour. Therefore, finding a seal on the beach does not mean there is necessarily a problem. A healthy seal should be left well alone.

However, if there is a problem, there are a number of things you may see:

Abandoned: If you see a seal with a white, long-haired coat in the autumn/winter, or you see a small seal (less than 3 feet in length) alone between June and August, then it is probably still suckling from its mother. Check the sea regularly for any sign of an adult seal.

Thin: Signs of malnutrition include visible ribs, hips and neck and perhaps a rather baggy, wrinkled skin.

Sick: Signs of ill health include : coughing, sneezing or noisy, rapid breathing and possibly thick mucus coming from the nose, wounds or swellings, particularly on the flippers, and possibly favouring one flipper when moving (although remember that healthy seals will often lie and ‘hunch along’ on their sides) cloudy eyes, or thick mucus around them, or possibly one eye kept closed most of the time a seal showing little response to any disturbance going on around it (although remember they could be soundly asleep).

If you see a seal that may be abandoned, thin or ill, then call for advice and assistance:

BDMLR hotline: 01825 765546 (office hours) or 07787 433412 (out of hours)
RSPCA hotline (England & Wales): 0300 1234 999
SSPCA hotline (Scotland): 03000 999 999

You will receive further advice over the phone. If there is a problem with the animal, there are some important things you can do to help:

Provide information: Give the hotline an accurate description of the seal and its exact location. If at all possible, stay on the beach to guide the rescue team to the animal. This can save valuable and perhaps critical time. If you have a mobile, give the number to the hotline.

Control disturbance: Stop other people and their animals from approaching the seal, because - if it is a seal pup that is still suckling, then approaching the pup could threaten the mother-pup bond and the pup may be abandoned seals will react if approached too closely and are capable of inflicting a nasty bite - even the smallest pup can cause serious injury and this is even more of a risk with adults.

Prevent small seals from entering the sea: Stand between a pup and the sea and, if necessary, use a board or similar object to restrain it. Under no circumstances, attempt this with adult seals, as you could leave yourself open to injury. You should avoid handling a seal pup at all costs, for the same reason. Under no circumstances allow anybody to push the seal back in the sea. A pup still suckling is a poor swimmer and an older animal may be hauled out for good reason.

If you find a live whale, dolphin or porpoise

A whale, dolphin or porpoise stranded on the beach is obviously not a usual phenomenon. These animals do not beach themselves under normal circumstances, and they will require assistance.

BDMLR hotline: 01825 765546 (office hours) or 07787 433412 (out of hours)
RSPCA hotline (England & Wales): 0300 1234 999
SSPCA hotline (Scotland): 03000 999 999

You will receive further advice over the phone, but important things you can do to help are:

■Provide essential first aid.

■Support the animal in an upright position and dig trenches under the pectoral fins.

■Cover the animal with wet sheets or towels (even seaweed) and keep it moist by spraying or dousing with water.

■Do NOT cover, or let any water pass down the blowhole (nostril), sited on top of the animal's head. This will cause the animal great distress and could even kill it.

■Every movement around a stranded animal should be quiet, calm and gentle. Excessive noise and disturbance will only stress it further.

■Estimate the length of the animal and look for any distinguishing feature that may give clues as to the species you are dealing with.

■Look for any signs of injury and count the number of breaths (opening of the blowhole) that occur over a minute - this can give important clues as to how stressed the animal is.

■Take great care when handling a dolphin, porpoise or whale; keep away from the tail, as it can inflict serious injuries - this is particularly the case with whales and it is advisable to leave handling larger whales until experienced help has arrived. Avoid the animal’s breath, as it may carry some potentially nasty bacteria.

Provide information: Give the hotline an exact location for the animal - this can save valuable and perhaps critical time. If you have a mobile, give the number to the hotline.

■Give an accurate description of the animal, including its breathing rate, and whether it is in the surf, on rocks or sand, in the shade or in the full glare of the sun.

■Information on weather conditions and sea state also can be helpful.

■The hotline should be informed of any attempts already made to push the animal back into the sea.

■Maintain control.

■Keep all contact, noise and disturbance to a minimum.

Under no circumstances, release the animal into the sea before the rescue team has arrived. It is fine to support a smaller dolphin or porpoise in the water, as long as the blowhole is kept above the water at all times, and as long as it is carried to the water carefully, e.g. in a tarpaulin (do NOT drag it or lift it by its fins or tail).

■However, actually releasing the animal before it has received an assessment and first aid from experienced personnel can do more harm than good.

If you find a dead cetacean

The Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme collect a wide range of data on each stranding found on UK shores. In the event that you discover a dead stranded animal, please contact the CSIP hotline and give a description of the following where possible:

■location and date found
■species and sex
■overall length
■condition of the animal
■your contact details should further information be needed

Digital images are extremely helpful in the identification to species of strandings, as well as ascertaining whether the body may be suitable for post-mortem examination. If possible, please also forward any images that may have been taken with a digital camera or mobile phone.

CSIP have a produced a useful leaflet that can be obtained from them, see our LINKS page.

CSIP hotline: 0800 6520333. Callers are given a number of options to ensure they reach the correct department.  You can also use this number to contact BDMLR as there is an option for live animal strandings that transfers directly to them.


The above is taken from the BDMLR (British Divers Marine Life Rescue) website - see our LINKS page.

Seal Pup on Beach
Seal Pup on Beach
Grey Seal entangled in Fishing Net
Grey Seal entangled in Fishing Net
Photo Copyright: Ross Flett
BDMLR Medics caring for a stranded whale
BDMLR Medics caring for a stranded whale
BDMLR Incident Command Unit on site
BDMLR Incident Command Unit on site
Overlooking Poll a' Fearchaidh (Lochboisdale, South Uist) where a Pilot Whale had become stuck in a rocky lagoon ~ May 2013
BDMLR Incident Command Unit
BDMLR Incident Command Unit
The ICU is a valuable resource for overseeing rescues and dissemination of information to the general public and media

There is now a Skye & Wester Ross Team (that also covers Cromarty) based locally that can attend incidents - if you would like further information on becoming a Supporter Member of BDMLR or training as a volunteer Marine Mammal Medic, contact BDMLR HQ by going to their website via our LINKS page.

Some keen eyed viewers to the "Whale Wars" programme may have noticed some of the crew of the Sea Shepherd vessels wearing BDMLR Medic badges.  We are assured by BDMLR that they do not support the methods used by Sea Shepherd in protecting whales, but those persons have simply undergone Medic Training with BDMLR.

KEG does not support any agency that encourages piracy on the High Seas in accordance with the 'Law of the Sea'.

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