A record-breaking 3,012 grey seal pups were born at Blakeney National Nature Reserve in Norfolk this winter, surpassing 3,000 for the first time.
The first seal pup was observed at the National Trust’s Blakeney Point in 1988, some 30 years ago. Numbers increased to 25 pups in 2001, more than 1,000 in 2012, 2,000 in 2014 and now over 3,000 in 2018. It’s the largest grey seal colony in England.
A mother feeding her young pup on Blakeney Point ©National Trust – Ian Ward
It’s thought that the isolated nature of the reserve and the low levels of disturbance are creating an ideal habitat for the seals to breed.
“The count, which began on 25 October started slowly with fewer numbers born in the early days compared to previous years; but by the last week of November, births were in full swing with an average of 150 pups being born every day,” said National Trust Ranger Leighton Newman, who, alongside fellow rangers and volunteers, spent the winter monitoring the colony.
Grey seal pup on Blakeney Point ©National Trust – Ian Ward
“We’d like to say a really big thank you to all of our amazing and dedicated volunteers who have spent their time helping us to monitor the colony and speak to visitors this winter, in often cold and windy conditions.
“We are also fortunate to have a really supportive local community and visitors to the reserve.
“They have helped keep disturbance of the seals to a minimum, sticking to waymarked routes, staying clear of fenced off areas and ensuring that the seals have the space they need. This all helps ensure the colony can thrive.”
Approximately 20,000 grey seal pups have been born at Blakeney Point in the past 30 years, with just a 1.5% mortality rate this winter.
Seal colonies are also doing well on the the National Trust’s Farne Islands off the Northumberland Coast, where 2,602 pups were counted, and at Horsey in Norfolk (2,068 pups born).
Find our more about about Blakeney National Nature Reserve.