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Dublin: 4°C Tuesday 26 January 2021

Wildlife service investigates reports of 'beheaded' seals on Kerry beach

The NPWS said it has visited the scene at Banna Beach.

Image: Shutterstock/Viktor Loki

THE NATIONAL PARKS and Wildlife Service has launched an investigation into the discovery of dead seals on Banna Beach, Co Kerry in recent weeks. 

The NPWS said it has visited the scene and will issue further comment in due course. 

In Ireland, seals are a protected species under the Irish Wildlife Act, 1976 and The EU’s Marine Mammal Protection Act, 1972. 

One woman told Radio Kerry that she discovered a number of dead seals on Banna Beach that appeared to have been “beheaded”.

  • With many species in decline, our colleagues at Noteworthy want to find out if the Government is adequately protecting our natural world? Support this project here

She said she was concerned about the frequency in which she was discovering seal carcases in the last two weeks.

“I’ve just been on my walk and come across it on a number of occasions over a short space of time, and that strikes as there’s something else going on,” she said. 

“The heads of the seals seemed to have been removed. The first time that I saw one a couple of weeks ago I thought maybe a dog or something had eaten it but just having seen the two again that I came across this weekend it does look like from what I can see that that’s what happened.

“They seem to have been more cleanly taken off.”

The Irish Seal Rescue (ISS) said the recent discoveries certainly merit investigation but until post mortems are carried out it will be hard to say for certain how the seals died.

Brendan Price, ISS chair, said the injuries suffered by one seal he saw could be consistent with gunshot wounds but he couldn’t say for certain given the range of injuries he’s witnessed over the years. 

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“We used to think that decapitations were propeller injuries. Later it was suggested that they were entanglements,” he said.

“More and more sadly you’ll see seals with a ligature around their neck, and if they’re growing it kills them. 

The other thing is with the dead seals, the head is the heaviest part of the seal and as it decomposes in water sometimes it falls off. And it does look like it has been done by a surgeon. 

“So, without any form of post-mortem its hard to say with any certitude that it was shot. What we would say is it is amongst the possibilities,” Price said. 

ISS set up the dead seal data base several years ago to get a better picture of patterns and locations of seal injuries and deaths. The database is entirely dependent on people sending in information and Price says it is time the State takes on that responsibility. 

The NPWS thanked the members of the public who have reported these incidents, “and always encourages the public to report such sightings to them”.

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Adam Daly

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