Spearmint Seal
visits Ilfracombe:



We are incredibly lucky to have a population of Atlantic Grey  Seals right here in North Devon. They can be seen around Lundy, and basking on the rocks at Mortehoe, and swimming just about anywhere on our stretch of coast. But they rarely turn up on the beach!!

On a sunny afternoon in June a young seal decided to haul himself out of the water and onto an Ilfracombe beach. It is not at all unusual for a seal to come ashore for a sleep, but it is unusual to do it somewhere so busy!



All the photos on this page were taken with a long lens from a safe distance.



A beachgoer quickly phoned British Divers Marine Life Rescue who sent one of their volunteers as quickly as possible. The volunteer was able to assess the seal (froma safe distance!) and establish that he wasn;t ill or injured, just very tired! He was a seal who had probably just had a very large lunch and needed to chill out.


More volunteers arrived and they decided that the best strategy was to leave the seal to enjoy his sleep but to try to keep people and dogs away from him.


Seals look very cute and cuddly but they have a fearsome bite - they could do a lot of dmage to an outstretched hand. And curious dogs have been known to attack seals. Desperately sadly, a seal had to be put down only a few weeks before our visitor after a dog brutally attacked it. 


The volunteers put a barrier around the seal and then it was simply a question of waiting for him to wake up and move on.


A small crowd gathered around but everyone was extremely respectful of the seal, just very interested in what he was doing there.



The British Divers Marine Life Rescue volunteers were able to establish that they knew the seal! He had on him a red tag which identified him as 'Spearmint'.

He had been been rescued as a pup in the autumn in Cornwall and had been taken to West Hatch RSPCA where they have particular facilities for taking care of seals. When he was around nine months old, well, and of a good weight, he was released back into the wild in North Devon.


After release, he had then shown up in Lee for a couple of days and again, the British Marine Life Rescue volunteers had come to his aid to monitor him and protect him from disturbance. It was then that he decided to pay us a visit in Ilfracombe.


After several hours of sleeping, Spearmint went back into the sea - and the volunteers were all able to go home after their hours of seal-watching.





Spearmint was seen later that same evening in the the water but there has since been no sign of him here. While it was lovely to have him here, it is great news that he has decided to haul out in more peaceful places from now on!




- Keep well back, keep dogs away

- Watch from a distance 
      a parent will generally return to a pup
      a sleeping seal will generally return to the                             water after a rest


- Call for help if it looks abandoned, thin, ill, or injured        (or if it has hauled out somewhere too busy)


01825 765546

RSPCA hotline (England/Wales): 0300 1234 999
SSPCA hotline (Scotland): 03000 999 999


August 2021


Since this visit of Spearmint, he has been seen several times on different beaches in North Devon. Medics from BDMLR have done their best to monitor him, protect him and gently encourage him to find somewhere quieter and safer to sleep. However, he is proving to be very stubborn! He has been relocated on more than one occasion to another part of the coast, but still he returns and there are very real fears for his safety as he insists on being on beaches full of dogs and people. There are also concerns that he may hurt someone who gets too close as he has a fearsome bite.

If you do see him, please do not post his location on social media -  he really needs to be undisturbed. Please contact BDMLR to let them know where he is 01825 765546. Thank you.

Our thanks go to all the volunteers at BDMLR who have given up so much of their time to keep him safe. Thanks guys!!