South West Wales

Skomer Island 'heartbreak' as more seal pups confirmed dead

A picture of a Skomer seal Image copyright Mike Alexander
Image caption Skomer is an important breeding site for the Atlantic grey seal

More seal pups have been confirmed dead on a Pembrokeshire island as a result of the recent storms.

Storms Ophelia and Brian wreaked havoc on Skomer last month, and the latest count shows three quarters of this season's Atlantic grey seal pups have now died.

The average number born on the island each year is 160.

Ramsey Island also lost about 100 pups, but its warden said about 30 had been born since the last storm.

More than 50 injured pups have been rescued by volunteers and are being cared for at a centre in Milford Haven before being released back into the wild.

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Media captionA rescue centre in Pembrokeshire cares for injured seals

Rebecca Vincent from the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, which manages Skomer, said it was "heartbreaking" to see all of its conservation work "wiped out by a natural occurrence".

She said its £25,000 fundraising appeal to repair the island damage and storm-proof them for the future was "close to its target".

Female seals produce a single pup each year and usually mate at around five or six years-old.

Ms Vincent said it was difficult to say how this year's fatalities would affect the future seal population, "but it was likely there will be a knock-on effect".

"There are a few breeding adults who didn't make it either," she said, adding that they will be relying on seals which reproduce regularly to keep the numbers going," she said.

Image copyright Greg morgan/RSPB RAMSEY ISLAND
Image caption Seal pups treble their birth weight of about 30lbs (14kg) to 100lbs (45kg) in a few weeks

Ramsey site manager Greg Morgan said seal pups were born right into November and since Storm Brian there had been 28 new pups.

He said it was nice for them to have a break in the weather.

"There are no big storms on the horizon and with some luck these latest pups should do okay," he said.

Mr Morgan did not think this year's deaths would affect the seal population as they are "long-lived animals", with some cows reaching 30 years.

But he warned there was "potential for worry", should intense storms become more frequent at this time of year.

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