• Victoria Bowers

The Grey Seals of Horsey Gap

Updated: Jan 11

Seals belong to the species of pinnipeds (fin-footed in Latin). Almost all pinnipeds can be found in cold-water environments. There are 33 types widely distributed around the world, most of which are known as seals. All seals eat other animals, however most rely on fish caught out at sea. Seals are thought to be most closely related to bears, otters and badgers.

In this post I am focusing on the Grey Seal, the Greek name of halichoerus gryus which translates; “hooked-nosed sea pig”. The Grey Seal is one of the rarest species of seal on Earth and around half the global population of grey seals are found around the British coasts. They are the biggest land breeding mammal in the United Kingdom.

Grey seals can dive to depths of around 70 metres when searching for food. Their large eyes allow them to see well in dark murky waters; however their highly sensitive ears are most important for locating prey. Even blind seals can easily catch prey. Female grey seals can live for up to 35 years, but males are lucky to reach 25 years old. Only few grey seals manage to survive till adulthood. Around 30 to 50% of grey seals die before they reach the age of one year.

These animals were often a target of hunters in the past because of their fur, meat and oil and are not as numerous as they once were due to numerous fishing nets in the ocean and pollution of the sea. Grey seals were the first mammals to be protected by modern legislation beginning with the Grey Seals Protection Act of 1914. Today, the Conservation of Seals Act (1970) protects them during a closed season from 1st September to 31st December.

Images captured by Victoria Bowers at Horsey Beach, Norfolk, Jan 2022.

The visit to photograph the seals at Horsey Gap was monitored by wardens. Access to the beach was prohibited and the seals were roped off. Visitors shouldn’t approach seals during pupping season and all dogs and children should be kept at a safe distance. Seals can be can be aggressive!

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