Sad fate of Sandymount Seal

sealMoira Lawson, a photographer based in Dublin, took an early morning stroll on Sandymount Beach recently. The tide was way out and Moira noticed a rather unusual looking lump on the beach.

The lump turned out to be a baby seal but due to a lack of light it was hard to make out. On first appearance it looked small and was eating an unusually large amount of sand. Moira knew she needed some assistance and immediately called the DSPCA.

“It was just their answering machine saying the office was closed and to call the local Garda station, so I phoned Irishtown Garda Station but they said they couldn’t help. I then tried Tara Street Fire Station and they said to phone the Coast Guard,” said Moira.

After a few moments of obtaining contact information and making the formal call to the Coast Guard, they too said they couldn’t help. “Maybe just wait for the tide to come in,” they said. This was 5.30 in the morning, the tide only comes in at 10am.

A few moments later she was joined on the beach by a local man who went home, checked the internet and contacted a seal sanctuary based in Dingle, Co. Kerry.

Ally McMillan from Dingle Wildlife and Seal Sanctuary guided Moira through the next stages. “Basically, she asked me to take some photographs and send them to her,” said Moira. McMillan wanted to get a better understanding of what they were dealing with.

The seal was a rare breed that came from the North Pole and had obviously drifted into waters unsuitable for it. Before this particular incident, only three animals of this type were ever found in Ireland and only one was saved and released into the wild again.

Back on the beach, McMillan suggested getting the seal somewhere safer. This posed logistical problems due to the fact that Moira had no car. Moira was told that the most important thing was not to let it get back into the water as it was already dehydrated and this would kill it quite quickly.

Moira’s friend Con Murray arrived and helped her to cart the seal up the beach and they waited at the top for help. It was clear to Moira that nobody knew who to contact. “People gathered around us and would say there was a sanctuary in Balbriggan but nobody knew what to do or where to turn,” said Moira.

“Paula Hughes from Sandymount Pet Hospital nearby came down and helped put the seal on a stretcher. It clearly wasn’t well and kept eating sand and there was nothing we could do to help it,” said Moira. Undertaking a massive round trip, Ally McMillan arrived and brought the seal back to the sanctuary in Dingle. Sadly, at midnight that evening, after treatment, the young pup died.

It was then transported to UCD for a postmortem to determine the exact cause of death. What’s known thus far is the seal consumed a large quantity of sand while stranded on the beach. According to the experts from Dingle, this may have clogged up its digestive system and led to its demise.

Moira, Con, and the staff from both Sandymount Pet Hospital and Dingle Wildlife and Seal Sanctuary are to be commended for their brave rescue efforts.

After this discovery the Irish Seal Sanctuary reopened their Balbriggan office. Should you come across a seal on the beach please contact +353 66-9151750 (Dingle) or +353 1 8354370 (Dublin).