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Relief as Isle of May seals escape wrath of Storm Arwen

Grey seal pup

The ‘vast majority’ of seals on an island in the Forth managed to survive Storm Arwen battering the east coast.

Isle of May reserve manager David Steel said most of the animals had managed to find shelter as the first named storm of the season brought gusts of more than 90mph.

But he said “without doubt” there will have been some losses.

“We’re very lucky in that most of the colonies on the island are quite sheltered.

“The seals have managed to make their way to higher ground to avoid the worst of the waves crashing on shorelines.”

Hundreds of seal pups perish at St Abbs

It followed the harrowing sight of hundreds of dead seals at St Abbs in the Scottish Borders.

More than 850 seal pups are reported to have perished after what was a record breeding season.

Many other pups are feared to be separated from their mothers, and could starve to death.

David, who manages the Isle of May reserve for NatureScot, added: “We were very saddened to learn of the deaths of so many grey seals at St Abbs.

“But thankfully the vast majority of seals and their pups on the Isle of May have survived Storm Arwen.”

The storm caused structural damage to some of the buildings on the island.

“But we’re relieved to see very few casualties from what was a particularly devastating storm.”

More devastating losses expected off English coast

According to National Trust for Scotland ranger Ciaran Hatsell, Storm Arwen resulted in the loss of “at least 850” of the 2,048 seal pups at St Abbs.

That figure represents about 42% of all the seal pups at St Abbs.

David said reports from other seal colonies across the UK were emerging.

And it is likely there have been huge losses of seals on the Farne Islands off the coast of Northumberland.

He said the situation on the Isle of May brought a glimmer of hope amid a week of bad news.

“Without doubt, we will have lost animals but the mortality rate will be lower due to the location of the seal colonies on the island, so we are very thankful for that.

“It’s been a difficult weekend with bad news pouring out. But at least we can bring some positives and hopefully no more repeat of Storm Arwen.”

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