September 28, 2021

Seal charity wants Wicklow beach closed until April to prevent dog attacks

Wicklow County  Council is considering keeping Bride’s Head Beach  south of  Wicklow Town closed until April to protect a colony of grey seals based there.

Seal Rescue Ireland has called for public access to the area to be restricted for nine months of the year after it flagged concerns about dogs potentially attacking the animals at the beauty spot.

“The council is keen to ensure that the grey seals at Bride’s Head beach are protected from disturbance and is amenable to the proposal by Seal Rescue Ireland (SRI) to extend the restrictions on public access to the beach until the end of April,” a spokesman for the council said.

In 2019, for the first time, the council agreed to prevent entry to the beach between August and December, the period during which the animals mate.

“The beach is a really valuable haul-out site for grey seals. A haul-out site is an area of coastline that is accessible to seals but is protected from terrestrial predators or threats, basically humans,” Melanie Croce, executive director of SRI said.

“In Ireland the only predators to seals are humans and dogs.

“This particular beach is very valuable and seals have historically gone there. It was open to the public, but it would take just one person to walk out on the beach and scare away all of the seals. It might then taken hours for them to come back,” she added.

“The seals have a safe place to haul-out and people are able to observe them closely from the cliff above and learn about them.

“Another important stage in the life cycle is molting season, which goes until April. It would be very beneficial to keep this beach as a safe place for them to rest on during this stage, without the threat of being approached humans,” Ms Croce said.

“There are fewer grey seals in the world than African elephants, so the seals that we have here are globally important.

“We get seals every year in Seal Rescue Ireland that have been attacked by dogs. Sometimes their injuries are very bad and they don’t survive.”

Grey seals are the larger of the two seal species found in Irish waters, and there is thought to be between 4,000 and 12,000 living here.

Ms Croce  added that two different species of Artic seals were spotted on Irish beaches recently which suggests that climate change is pushing them further south.

The first hooded seal was discovered on a beach in Cork while a young ringed seal, also known as pusa hispida, and was found on a beach in Kerry.

It would normally be found throughout the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic.


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