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Welcome… to the Friends of Horsey Seals, a group run by volunteers

ABOUT GREY SEALS…

Around half of the world’s population of grey seals are found around Britain, therefore their protection is of international conservation importance. The scientific name Halichoerus grypus means “Hook-nosed Sea Pig”! It is one of our largest mammals but is still vulnerable to disturbance during the pupping season.

Grey seals come ashore to breed – the breeding site is known as a rookery or haul-out. The females (cows) arrive at the breeding sites first and will usually give birth a day later. As mammals they feed their pups on their milk for three weeks, keeping a close territory.

When the males (bulls) arrive they compete for space nearest to the cows. The fittest bulls get the best positions for mating. If pups get disturbed they may move into a bull’s (or other cow’s) territory, where they could get injured or even killed.

After the pup is weaned (approximately three weeks) the mother will leave. Over the next few weeks the pup will moult its soft white coat for a mottled waterproof one; it will not feed during this time and relies on the fat it built up by feeding (undisturbed) from its mother earlier on. When it gets hungry enough it will make its way to the sea where it will learn to feed itself.

GREY SEAL FACTS

  • Bulls can grow to over 3m in length and weigh more than 300kg. Cows are much smaller and about half the weight.
  • The mother’s milk is 60% FAT – the consistency of condensed milk (a bit like our Christmas diet!) Pups put on 2kg of weight PER DAY!
  • Pups are born with a warm white coat that is not waterproof. When they moult and get their waterproof coat they have to learn to live at sea and teach themselves to catch food.
  • More than half of the pups born won’t survive their first year.
  • When they have weaned their pups the females will mate. After a delay the pregnancy will start in time for the mother to give birth at the breeding site next year.

IF YOU DO VISIT A SEAL COLONY, PLEASE RESPECT THESE WILD CREATURES:

  • Stay a good distance away from the seals
  • Look out for seals in the dunes and give them a wide berth
  • Be careful – seals have a nasty bite
  • Keep dogs on a lead
  • Keep to marked viewing areas and respect the fencing
  • Remember grey seals are wild animals and should not be approached
  • Respect other visitors

ACCESS AND THE TERRAIN AT HORSEY

Visiting Horsey is a joyous experience at all times of year but please be aware that, if your visit is to see seals, the track to the viewing areas is likely to be affected by puddles in the winter months and can be uneven for people with reduced mobility, or visitors with pushchairs or prams, to negotiate.

Please also remember that the wind on top of the dunes can be very cold during the winter months, so for those unable to move around very much, it’s wise to wear extra layers of clothing.  Winter afternoons are short and darkness comes quickly.  The site is unlit.  Be prepared – take a torch.

We ask you to follow the marked paths. Best views are from an area atop the dunes about 11/4 miles (approximately 25 minutes walk) from Horsey Gap car park, which is reached by a tall flight of wooden steps.

A smaller viewing area is just 5-10 minutes walk from the car park, reached by a roped sandy/grassy path which ascends the dunes with no steps. This path leads towards a WWII pillbox. After that, the section which rejoins the main path is downhill and quite steep and you might need to check that it is suitable for you before you start the walk. On regaining the main track turn left if you wish to continue your walk to the main viewing area, or right to return to Horsey Gap car park.

All our visitors are welcome and there is a special wide gate to give access to wheelchairs and buggies but, because of the nature of the site, there is currently no facility at Horsey for easy access to the viewing areas by wheelchair.  An excellent alternative, if walking is a problem, might be a seal boat trip from Morston Quay or Blakeney where passengers get close-up views of grey and harbour (common) seals.

Beans Boats are equipped to take wheelchair-bound passengers, and the boats run all year, although trips are weather dependant.  Contact info@beansboattrips.co.uk for further information or visit their website www.beansboattrips.co.uk

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