“Seal of Approval” From Local Volunteers

Sunday evening, all cooried in for the night and a call comes through. “We are just heading to check out a seal at Balevullin, meet you there.”

It’s that time of year here on Tiree, the wind that attracts all those who love watersports is pretty constant and it’s been a bit rough all day. By the time I arrive Louise Reid and Margaret Worsley, two Marine Mammal Medics with BDMLR, have already assessed the seal and are on the phone to control.

The seal is a young Common and it looks exhausted. The waves are crashing in at Balevullin and it’s obvious this one has had a bit of a time of it. The decision is made and the wee one is going to head to the vets for the night to get some fluids and rest. However, how to get it there? After a bit of a discussion, the seal is wrapped up in a make shift stretcher, Louise’s Barbour coat, with its head in a sleeve so it doesn’t bite and after struggling across the sand we get it into a holdall to transport it to the vets. However, I hear the zips coming undone as we drive along and sure enough its head is poking out the bag when we arrive.

The next day was full of excitement as the seal decided it wasn’t happy being at the vets after a night’s rest and it was agreed to release it as soon as possible. A couple of fish boxes tied together were used to transport it this time and the seal was off like a rocket when it arrived back on the beach. We were all ecstatic but also discussed how we could improve on our rescues in the future. Being a volunteer team and based on an island it has always been a case of make do. I used to work for a wildlife hospital on the mainland and knew there was equipment we could use but it is expensive. One of the key items was a seal stretcher which would make carrying the seals along the beaches and rocky shoreline a lot easier. Now seal stretchers are specialist bits of kit and hard to come by so I spoke to 1-2-1 Animal Handling Products who make shark carriers for moving animals between aquariums. They were intrigued by our request and offered us one of their carriers at a discounted price. So that evening we put the story out about the seal rescue along with a link to a Just Giving page and a target of £500.

Within an hour of the page being set up I got a message from Frazer MacInnes. Frazer co-runs Tiree Sea Tours which take folk out looking for dolphins, whales, seals and basking sharks. Tiree Sea Tours wanted to pay for the stretcher! In Fraz’s words “Our business relies on the wildlife in our seas around Tiree and it’s important that we also help to look after them”. I let the team know and by the next day we were buzzing as not only had we had this great news, we had exceeded our fundraising target to £695. Our new stretcher arrived last week and the team have had a chance to practice with it and it’s all ready to go. We are also in the process of ordering some other essential pieces of kits such as transport carriers to keep the seals safe on their journeys off the island into rehab. If required.

We are incredibly grateful to Tiree Sea Tours, 1-2-1 Animal Handling Products and all the generous supporters of our appeal which will ensure the safety of rescued seals and cetaceans in the coming years on Tiree.