A SEAL has found a new feeding ground – eight miles inland from the open sea. And the animal in question is unlikely to go hungry in the River Wear at Chester-le-Street, County Durham, which is why he keeps coming back.
Amateur wildlife photographer Rob Wells finally managed to snap him yesterday – six weeks after first spotting him next to the town’s Riverside Park.
Rob, 57, a self-employed joiner from High Barnes, Great Lumley, Chester-le-Street, said the seal had become quite a hit with locals from the town.
"A woman who feeds the ducks and swans first mentioned the presence of a seal to me when I was walking in the park.
"Apparently, he had been swept upstream from Fatfield, which is a little closer to the sea, after the heavy rainfall.
"He – or maybe she – found himself at the foot of the rapids next to the park, and the fish cannot get over them.
"So he found he had stumbled on quite a lucrative feeding ground. It is little wonder he keeps coming back!"
Rob said local anglers had been complaining that the seal, together with a pair of cormorants, had been snapping up all the fish, leaving them empty-handed.
"It is nature, they will have to get over it," he said.
"The seal is quite timid. He is popular with local children but, when they spot him and shout, he dives underwater.
"And he is very nimble. When I managed to take his photo he had caught a fish and was swimming back downstream at quite a rate of knots.
"I had to really sprint along the riverbank to take his photo.
"I have lived in Chester-le-Street most of my life and have never seen a seal so far inland before."
Common – or harbour – seals are the most widespread variety on Britain’s coast. They can survive in fresh water for several weeks and usually return to the sea under their own steam. This week, seals have been reported upriver in other parts of Britain following heavy flooding.
One was spotted 50 miles from the sea in a marina in Worcestershire after high water levels enabled it to swim freely over swollen weirs. Another was spotted in a usually land-locked lake in Cambridgeshire.