Joint Seal Rescue Operation at Lewes

Staff at the Linklater Pavilion on Lewes Railway Land Wildlife Trust were surprised to look out their window and see a seal swimming in the Winterbourne Stream this morning. Concerned about the seal’s behaviour and that it must have come through two sluice gates to get into the stream, staff called out rescuers from East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service (WRAS).

Trevor Weeks MBE Operations Director attended on site to assess the situation. “A passing member of the public who regularly uses the site said they had seen seals in the Winterbourne stream before, but the seal had managed to get into the area known as the heart of reeds due to the amount of flood water. We observed the seal’s behaviour for a while and it quickly became apparent that the seal was struggling to find his way back out to the Winterbourne Stream and River Ouse.”

Trevor called out colleagues from British Divers Marine Life Rescue, based in Uckfield, to help assess the situation. 

“When I arrived Trevor showed me round and I could see why he wanted a second opinion” said Julia Cable from British Divers Marine Life Rescue.  “It was a very difficult and unusual situation and one which we were not going to rush into undertaking a capture, so we decided to hang back and monitor the situation for a while.”

With the tide turned in the River Ouse, water started pouring out of the Winterbourne Stream and the flood water started to decrease, but rescuers could see the seal clearly wanted to get out via the land. Rescuers continued monitoring from a distance, keeping people away and checking the seal’s behaviour.

The rescuers luck suddenly changed when the seal decided to move into a flooded piece of woodland next to the “Heart of Reeds”.  Julia and Trevor moved a large metal fence panel across the flood water where the seal had gained access cutting off its escape back to deeper water.

“It was very much a waiting game to see if the seal would try and cross the land to the Winterbourne Stream or try and go back into the Heart of Reeds. We weren’t really expecting to get an opportunity to catch the seal but it suddenly attempted to go right up to the blocked escape route, giving Julia a change to throw a towel over it and attempt to catch it. I sprang forward with a net to help Julia and between the two of us we managed to get the very feisty seal secured” said Trevor.

“Trevor and I got exceptionally wet and muddy, it certainly wasn’t the ideal location to attempt capture, but probably the best opportunity we were going to get. Once Trevor was on top of the seal and had it secured I prepared a crate and we got the lively seal loaded on board the veterinary ambulance” said Julia.

“Despite being a bit worried about one of its eyes initially, once in the crate we were able to have a better look and it was then clear the eyes were fine and the seal really fit and healthy” said Trevor.

To avoid the seal going straight back into the Winterbourne Stream the seal was transported and released from the slip way at Newhaven Marina.

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