Seals at Donna Nook


It’s pupping time at Donna Nook this month, and next – and it’s always a time of great excitement for both photographers and everyone else.

What some people forget is that these seals are wild animals, and despite how cute the pups look, they are capable of inflicting a nasty bite.  The mothers, over protective, and dominant, can move faster than a person can run – and today, even from the other side of a well made fence, a female growled and plunged at us just for passing.  We were glad we were on the other side of it.

Grey Seal Pup

The grey seal pups weigh about 14kg at birth and have soft white fur. They remain on land where they suck from their mother for 18 – 21 days. A female’s milk contains up to 60% fat, so pups grow very quickly, gaining about 2kg in weight each day. This weight gain consists mainly of a layer of blubber below their skin, which is vital insulation when they go to sea. During the pupping season, male grey seals also come ashore to mate.
The largest males, usually more than 10 years old, compete for a position within groups of breeding females. Occasionally males fight, and may sustain deep scars on their necks as a result.
The fence at Donna Nook, at the foot of the sand dunes reduces disturbance to the seals, and also ensures the safety of visitors.

For your own safety and to reduce disturbance to the seals, please follow these guidelines:

  • Stay within the viewing area behind the fence
  • Strictly observe all red flag and other bombing range warnings
  • Don’t get too close to the seals
  • Never feed or pet the seals
  • No unaccompanied children
  • No dogs

Photographers have been seen out on the beach at the weekends, when the range is closed.  Sadly, all this leads to is an encouragement of others (with no fieldcraft or expertise) to join them out there.

Great pictures can be got from the fence line – there is no need to travel further out, and disturb breeding animals.  If a mother seal thinks her pup does not smell right, she will abandon it, and it will die.  Please keep to the designated paths.


The seals, and the Wildlife Trust will love you for it….