Author: Winston C Irvine

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Wednesday, January 27th, 2010 at 10:48 pm
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Nature

East Lothian’s Seals

Seals are a great favourite with visitors to zoos and circuses but two species of seal can also be seen in their native habitat on the East Lothian shores: the grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) and the common seal (Phoca vitulina)
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Hands up how many of you know that the United Kingdom plays host to around 60% of the world’s grey seal population with around 90% breeding in Scottish waters?

If you are sharp enough, or out in a sailing boat or kayak, you might manage to catch sight of  these mammals, with their dog-like faces, swimming near Dunbar and Gullane or around the Bass Rock. Being very shy, they tend to vanish at the slightest sound of a boat’s engine.

You can tell them apart as the common seal has a longer muzzle and a patchy appearance.

Common seals mate and give birth to their pups in the water, while the grey seal gives birth on sandbanks and many can be seen across the water in Aberlady Bay during the pupping season, (October-November). On the following high tide, they are quite capable of swimming straight away, returning to the sands to suckle.

When older, they hunt for inshore fish offering no competition to the Scottish fishing industry, although they can also be seen scavenging around fishing boats in harbours.

Whether on land or water, seals should be given a wide berth – they are capable of inflicting a savage bite, especially a protective mother.

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