Friend or Foe?

Yesterday, having fed the chaps in Sandness, Flossie and I went on a little excursion.


We drove down to Bousta (the other end of Sandness) to see if the seals were “sunbathing”.


There was a nice little herd lounging around so, using the car as a very effective hide, we drove along the side of the beach and sat for a while watching them.


We counted ten seals lying on the small sheltered shingle beach.


I think they are common seals or harbour seals (Phoca vitulina), though I could be wrong as I am not a seal expert.


I think, also, that they had their babies with them.


I have a love-hate relationship with seals.


There is the mysterious mythological side.


In Shetland dialect, they are called Sylkies.


But they are also killers and I don’t let the dogs swim in the sea when the seals are bobbing about.


A few years ago, I read about a labrador being killed by a grey seal on Aberdeen beach – The Scottish Herald.

It was very distressing and made me realise that they are perhaps not the fluffy little loving chaps I want to cuddle.  If they could take on a labrador, a small swimming Patterdale terrier could be an appetiser.


Anywho, they always remind me of bananas on the rocks.  I am not alone in thinking this!


5 thoughts on “Friend or Foe?

  1. Margaret Robinson

    What a learning blog it was today. I had absolutely no idea that seals were killers of dogs. I suppose it’s a territorial thing. I do not remember reading about any kills in California where I live and people walk their dogs along the beaches all the time. However, I must say that we also close off areas off beaches where mothers/babies are located.

    Will now look upon this creatures with a little more knowledge. Thank you so much – MMR

  2. Terri

    I’ve spent most of my life in California (and the West Coast), where there are six species of pinnipeds. Years ago I helped edit a book on seals, sea lions, and walruses for a research organization. I have never heard of an attack on dogs, but it would not surprise me. Pinnipeds are carnivores, and they are territorial and dangerous, esp. in pupping season. The coastal park rangers here walk/surveil the beaches and put cones and ropes leading people away from the pinnipeds resting on shore, and there are many warning signs to keep away. You’re right not to let BeAnne go for a swim!

  3. Carol E

    I’ve been vaguely aware of more reports of seals’ aggressive attacks on humans, dogs, and other marine mammals, but it does seem to have gotten worse in the last couple of years. Google “seal attacks” for a bunch of news articles.

    There are so many marine species that were hunted to near extinction, whose behavior seems to be changing now that their populations are stabilizing. In some cases, they seem to be changing their long-held perceptions of humans as deadly. In humpback and other whale species, they seem to be regarding humans as benign or even helpful (cases of whales entangled in fishing nets who become calm and still as people try to cut the nets free, etc., bringing their babies near whale watching boats, etc.)

    Seals may be feeling confident and powerful in the absence of hunting; or the combination of their population growth and our over-fishing of their food sources has caused them to expand the species they hunt. In Calif, we’ve seen behavioral changes in sea otters when they get infected with toxoplasmosis, a nasty bug whose life cycle is sustained by cats and rats — Toxo in cat poop put in the garbage can be leached out into waterways and reach the sea. We’ve also had red tides that generate a neurotoxin and have resulted in a high death rate in both young and mature seals. There are a lot of possibilities of things that could be changing behavior in seals around the world.

    We really enjoy watching seals and dolphins frolicking in the waves around surfers, but I’ll definitely think twice about getting in the water when marine mammals are around!

    Thanks for the great photos.


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