The mystery of the decapitated seals on British beaches

The appearance of several headless and finless seals on different shores of Norfolk and Cornwall has triggered speculation

The UK has a population of over 140,000 pinnipeds with 40% of the entire global gray seal population

Gunmen hired by salmon farmers are the main enemies of these mammals

The discovery of a headless seal on a Crantock beach, in the county of Cornwall, south-west England, has caused unrest among the people who came across his remains. They notified the government agency and they thought it was an isolated case, that the seal had suffered an accident at sea when it was trapped with the propeller of a boat, or with some water turbine, or being bitten by a shark. However, the next day two more mutilated bodies of these mammals were reported on Norfolk Beach, at the other end of the island of Great Britain, in the east. And then they found a new mutilated specimen on another beach. All corpses agree that they have their heads and fins torn off. This coincidence has triggered speculation that the man’s footprint could be behind these deaths.

One of the people who stumbled upon a dead seal posted it on his Facebook account and immediately received a reply from another user who had had the same experience. “One is by chance, two are no longer,” he said. AND he warned of the presence of people who were dedicated to behead pinnipeds. Seals are protected in the UK. There are two main types: gray seals and common seals. The grays are distinguished by having a horse face, large eyes and long mustaches. There are 112,000 copies of this type in the country, 40% of the entire world population. Of the common seals there are about 34,000, 30% of the entire European population of this species.

They are particularly abundant on the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland islands in Scotland, and can also be found in small numbers off the coast of Wales, Cornwall and Norfolk. It is common in the United Kingdom to head towards one of the seal reserves to be able to contemplate them, It is especially this time of year, in the twelve weeks of Easter school holidays. Now this experience can become macabre if they run into the vision of the crippled specimens.

Forbidden to approach

Some experts have opined that it is not unusual to find mutilated corpses. They say they have very weak necks and that, sometimes, when they are dragged by the sea towards the shore, the force and weight of the waves ends up rendering them headless. But so far this year there have been more headless specimens than usual. Seals have many enemies. One of the main ones is the PDV virus, a little-studied virus known as the seal plague. In 1988, a massive infection of this virus already killed 18,000 specimens throughout northern Europe.

There are also the gunmen hired by farmers who grow salmon as seals pose a threat to salmon. The Seal Protection Group (SPAG) reported that these hunters were killing hundreds of seals each year with complete immunity. A University of St Andrews study attempting to unravel the causes of an unusual increase in dead gray seals with spinal cord injuries in 2015 He concluded that the main cause was not the propellers of the boats but his own predatory instinct. In other words, they killed each other. The findings were consistent with a previous study conducted in Germany.

The appearance of the decapitated corpses has coincided with the government’s warning that during these Easter holidays people do not get too close to them because of all the damage and anguish they can cause. Seals face an extensive list of threats that include climate change, toxic pollution, fishing nets, boat collisions, plastics and other marine debris. But the disturbance of human interaction is a major and growing problem. Seals are vulnerable to any type of human interaction, be it deliberate or inadvertent.

The sad end of Freddie Mercury

The government asks the public to stay away from the seals and to use zoom cameras to photograph them or binoculars so that they cannot smell, hear or see them, and to keep the dogs on a leash. London police recently reported that they had opened an investigation into the death of a seal on the bank of the Thames, next to Hammersmith Bridge. She was attacked by an off-leash dog that pounced on the defenseless animal, devouring its right fin and breaking several bones. The seal, who was known as Freddie Mercury among the locals and who lived in that patch of river delighting people with his romps, had to be euthanized when he got to the vet. The owner of the dog, an important English lawyer, immediately apologized for the damage caused and for taking the dog off a leash and was ultimately not prosecuted.

The government also asks that the seals not be fed and that people take all the garbage home. It warns that young seals are the most affected by these types of alterations and that only 25% are likely to survive to 18 months of age. “If people make noise or frighten vulnerable animals by getting too close, this wastes their energy, which means that the young cubs struggle to get out of the water to rest and digest their food ”, warns the government.

The agony of pregnant females

It also explains that female seals are about to give birth or have just given birth in summer and get too close or disturb them. can cause them to panic and stampede, ending both mothers and calves, fatally crashing into rocks trying to reach the water in his desperate desire to get water. The impact on seals can also be invisible by causing the mothers to be unable to accumulate sufficient fat stores and consequently unable to properly feed the newborn pups. “I’ve seen seals bleeding out, fins scraped off, claws ripped off, and bellies cut off leaving blood trails across rocks after a stampede. The seals need our help, so please stay away and keep your dogs on a leash, ”asks Sue Sayer, spokesperson for the Seal Research Foundation. And he added: “If a seal looks at you, it is because it has been altered, and then you have to move further away.” As they try to unravel the mystery of the decapitated seals.