On Boxing Day, the Poole family was walking their dogs at Tattershall Castle in Lincolnshire - miles from the sea - when they came across a young grey seal.


He was collected by an RSPCA rescuer and taken to a vet practice overnight, before being transferred to specialist facilities at RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre in Norfolk, where he was named Zodiac and estimated to be about three weeks old.

“Every day is different in this job but it was definitely unusual to be called about a seal pup at Tattershall Castle,” says RSPCA inspector Kate Burris.

“We think he must have come down the weir and climbed up the bank before the family came across him as he tried to clamber into a small dyke.”

Zodiac was very underweight at only 14kg, so had to remain the centre for three months until he was at least 40kg and healthy enough to be released.

Zodiac the seal at vets. © RSPCA
Zodiac the seal at vets. © RSPCA

“He was very feisty from day one - which is always a good sign for a wild animal!” says centre manager Alison Charles.

“It’s taken us a little longer to get to this point than we thought it might but it’s fantastic to be able to get him back to where he belongs.”

Footage of Zodiac when being released:

It had been planned that the family who found him would accompany the RSPCA for the release, but this was not possible due to the lockdown.

“We’re so happy that he’s recovered and been able to be released back to the wild. It’s a real shame we didn’t get to see it happen - it would have been a once in a lifetime experience," says Michael Poole.

“Finding him is not something we’ll ever forget, and the whole thing has been a real learning experience for the girls. Everytime we go on a walk [the youngest daughter] Tilly is looking out for wildlife. [Older daughter] Edie wants to be a vet but maybe she’ll think about working for the RSPCA after this.”

“We were all really struck by how amazing Kate was and despite saying how nasty seal bites can be, she was straight in there to rescue him. My wife and I both said how brave and quite brilliant she was. Such a nice person too. The RSPCA has offered for us to come and visit the centre when all this is over instead, which we’re all looking forward to doing.”

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RSPCA advice when finding sick, injured or lost animals:

If you see an animal who you are concerned is sick or injured you can call the RSPCA's emergency line on 0300 1234 999.

Do not attempt to capture or handle an injured seal. It’s important the public never approach seals and keep any dogs well away and on a lead, as these are wild animals and can have a nasty bite.

For more information on what to do if you see a seal or pup in need of help, visit the RSPCA’s website.


Main image: Zodiac being released. © RSPCA


Megan ShersbyEditorial and digital co-ordinator, BBC Wildlife

Naturalist and writer