Grey seal rescue in the UK

BBC Wildlife contributor Amy-Jane Beers finds out how grey seals are rescued and rehabilitated. 

© Nick Upton/

© Nick Upton/

How to rehabilitate a seal in 5 steps 


1. First response

In autumn and winter most calls to the British Divers Marine Life Rescue seal hotline concern weak or injured pups, but the team also help sick, injured or net-entangled adults. The public should keep their distance and avoid eye contact with the seal – and keep dogs under control.

2.  Assessment

A medic assesses the health of the seal, taking their temperature and blood samples where necessary. They can carry out some emergency treatments on site, including rehydration, cleaning any wounds and administering antibiotics. In the worst cases, seals are euthanised on the spot.

3. Rescue

Pups requiring further treatment are bagged and carried off the beach, then transferred to a crate for transport to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary. Sick and injured animals receive individualised treatment in private hospital cubicles. Underweight pups are fed up, socialised and taught how to hunt.

4. Rehab

Most of the animals brought to the sanctuary will be fully rehabilitated. However, those that cannot be released may become long-term residents. These seals will be trained to perform tricks such as rolling over, which enables sanctuary staff to carry out routine health checks.

5. Release 

Rehabilitated seals are released on quiet beaches. Pups that have reached a healthy weight and learned to fend for themselves are often released in groups. Each one will wear a sanctuary flipper tag and be added to the grey seal database, so that it will be recognised if it is seen again.

Watch the grey seal rescue video: 

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What do I do if I find a seal? 

  • Don’t get too close to wild seals. This especially applies to hauled-out seals, and mothers with pups.

You can discover how citizen scientists are gaining fascinating insights into the identities and secret lives of grey seals in the Spring issue of BBC Wildlife