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30 November, 2017

SNH advice on keeping seal pups safe at Ythan

Yesterday, the first pup of the season was born on the Ythan Estuary on Forvie National Nature Reserve, and many more seal pups will be born between now and the end of January. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) asks people not to get too close for the animal’s and their own safety. The best thing people can do is to safely watch the seals from across the other side of the estuary on the beach at Newburgh.

With over 1000 large grey seals hauling out at the mouth of the River Ythan at Newburgh, this location is becoming one of the best sites in Scotland to view large numbers of seals. This number of seals in recent years represents 26% of Scotland’s east coast population.

Part of the Ythan Estuary has been designated by Marine Scotland as an official seal haul-out site. This designation gives protection to the seals by providing safe areas for them when hauled out on land.

Annabel Drysdale, SNH’s Forvie NNR manager, said:

“We all love to watch wildlife, but we also need to protect it. So we’d ask people to go to the beach at Newburgh on the south side of the estuary, where you can getter a better view of the seals without accidently disturbing them.

“It’s exciting news that the seals are doing so well at Forvie National Nature Reserve, but we all need to make sure these wonderful animals are protected. There’s been a big increase in visitor numbers, particularly over the last year, so this extra protection for the seals is welcome and important.”

Here are a few more tips to watch seals safely and responsibly:

  • Heads up – if seals raise their heads when people are in the vicinity, then you are too close as this is a signal they are becoming nervous.

  • When watching seals on the beach, be quiet, avoid sudden movements and be responsive to their behaviour. Don’t get too close and back off if it looks like the seals may enter the water.
  • Be especially cautious if there are pups present; pups can be abandoned if their mothers feel threatened. Never separate pups from mothers, as females can be particularly aggressive when they have young. Leave lone pups alone: the mother may only be away foraging for food and if you approach or touch the pup while she is gone she may abandon it on her return.  

  • Don’t crowd or encircle seals. If you are in a group, keep the whole group to one side of the animal, preferably the landward side, so that the animal still has access to the water.  


Please note SNH is closed on Friday for St Andrew’s Day.

Contact information

SNH Media

Notes to editors

Forvie National Nature Reserve is one of about 45 NNRs in Scotland. NNRs are special places that look after some of the best of Scotland’s nature on behalf of everyone who lives or visits Scotland, and they provide unique opportunities to visit, enjoy and learn more about Scotland’s nature. For more information, see .

Scottish Natural Heritage is the government's adviser on all aspects of nature and landscape across Scotland. Our role is to help people understand, value and enjoy Scotland's nature now and in the future. For more information, visit our website at or follow us on Twitter at

Tha Dualchas Nàdair na h-Alba na buidheann comhairleachaidh dhan riaghaltas a thaobh nàdair agus seallaidhean-tìre air feadh Alba. 'S e an dleastanas a th' againn cuideachadh a thoirt do dhaoine gus tuigse, luach agus tlachd fhaighinn bho nàdar na h-Alba, an-dràsta agus san àm ri teachd. Airson tuilleadh fiosrachaidh, tadhail air  no lean sinn air Twitter aig




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Forvie-D7371 - seals

Forvie-D7371 - seals

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