Phoca vitulina and Halichoerus grypus and the 3R’s: Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release

Inês Costa

Harbour and grey seals are resident species around the coast of Ireland, and often admitted into rehabilitation.

A retrospective study was conducted on the condition of 459 grey and 175 harbour seals admitted into rehabilitation in the Republic of Ireland between 2012 and 2019. The pathological findings of necropsies from the seals that died before release, were undertaken by University College Dublin, are reviewed in this study.

The prevalence of presenting disorders, including the age-sex class composition, survival probability, hospitalization time and causes of death, were assessed from clinical examinations, as well as necropsies results.

In this study, admissions proved to display seasonality. Harbour and grey seals peak in the second and third quarter, respectively. The harbour seal sample comprised of 43.4% females, 53.1% males and 1,7% unsexed individuals, while grey seals comprised of 40.3% females, 57% males and 3% unsexed individuals. Of the harbour and grey seals admitted 64% and 62.3% of these individuals survived rehabilitation.

The study showed that prevalent disorders were mostly malnutrition and trauma, an association between age, traumatic and respiratory conditions for both species. Necropsy findings showed that probable cause of death was mostly due to malnutrition in grey seals and septicaemia in harbour seals.