In the Dart and its neighbouring coastal waters, grey and harbour seals are very close to the southerly edge of their range in the NE Atlantic.
Both species use the Dart estuary, and the Mewstone – just north of the entrance to the Dart – through the year. Here, if you see a head that resembles a bottle bobbing in the water, the seal is likely to be sleeping. They sleep ashore, also, often on floating pontoons. When awake, most often they are swimming, diving, floating like logs or eating fish.
Local grey seals usually give birth to their pups in sea caves and do not breed in the Dart. Local harbour seals gave birth to two pups in the estuary in 2019. Please try to avoid approaching mothers and pups, as this could disrupt the mother-pup bond. The pups, which begin life coloured black or grey, cannot swim as fluently nor dive as deep as the adults.
Please try to avoid approaching seals, especially when hauled out on local rocks and pontoons, where they rest and sleep. An approach that they feel to be aggressive (fast, noisy or direct) is most likely to scare them into the water and, if panicked, can cause injury. Stopping to watch them will attract their attention and may result in disturbance. The best way to enjoy observing their natural behaviour is to pass by slowly and quietly, without sudden movements – ideally no closer than 25 metres.
Please send information or questions about seal sightings to [email protected] who is conducting a study of seal use of the Dart and its coastal waters.