Grey seal pup season at Ravenscar

Words and photos by Dave Barry

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The National Trust in Ravenscar is appealing for volunteers to keep an eye on seal pups.

Curious, well-meaning members of the public sometimes venture too close to the pups and their anxious parents.

Adults in the colony of about 150 grey seals are liable to attack people who invade their personal space - and their bites are nasty.

The National Trust already has a small team of volunteers who monitor human and seal activity on the shore at the foot of the cliffs at Ravenscar.

But more are needed as more pups are born.

The basic rules are:

* Keep your distance - at least 10m;
* Don’t touch - they have a nasty bite and can carry disease which is dangerous to humans;
* Keep dogs on leads;
* Keep noise to a minimum;
* Be aware of your surroundings, especially by the cliff, where rocks can fall.

The grey seal’s Latin name, Halichoerus grypus, means hooked-nosed sea pig.

It is a large seal, with bulls in the eastern Atlantic populations reaching 3.3m long and weighing up to 310kg.

The cows are much smaller, reaching 2m in length and never weighing over 190kg.

On the other side of the Atlantic, they are often much larger, males reaching 400kg and females weighing up to 250kg.

The grey seal is distinguished from the harbour seal by its straight head profile, nostrils set well apart and fewer spots on its body.

Grey seals lack external ear flaps and have large snouts.

Bull greys have larger noses and a less curved profile than common seal bulls. Males are generally darker than females, with lighter patches and often scarring around the neck. Females are silver grey to brown with dark patches.

Anyone who would like to apply to be a volunteer should ring 870423 or email yorkshirecoast@nationaltrust.org.uk.

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