Over-friendly seal shipped off to rehab!

An over-friendly wild seal has been taken into rehab to wean her off human contact.

Spearmint is regularly spotted around Plymouth Sound in Devon and has become something of an attraction for tourists who feed her.

Photos even show the mammal interacting with wild swimmers, climbing on to paddleboards on crowded beaches and stopping off outside a pub.

But now the North Atlantic grey seal has become too friendly for her own good, and needs help to get used to fending for herself.

The RSPCA, who have helped put her onto a rehabilitation programme, said rescuers were 'working around the clock to get her fit and healthy' enough to be released.

They hope to release the aquatic creature, which has become 'habituated to humans', into a remote area of Scotland.

Rame Wildlife Rescue Network made up of multiple organisations has raised more than £5,000 for the seal's relocation to a remote area in Scotland.

The volunteers said they had been monitoring the North Atlantic grey seal since it had been spotted in Cawsand Bay, Cornwall about seven months ago.

Jessica Collins, a volunteer at Cornwall Seal Group and marine medic at British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), started the rescue network.

She said the seal, which is an endangered species, had become 'habituated to humans' - photos show the seal interacting with wild swimmers and climbing on to paddleboards on crowded beaches.

It is the second time the seal has been taken into rehabilitation, the first was due to human disturbance, Rame Wildlife Rescue Network said.

Ms Collins said: 'The main issue was when she started coming up the slipways. We had to barricade them. 

'At one point she went under a lorry and also travelled along the road for some distance.

'We think someone fed her up there so she went looking for food. She was really at risk.

'Although at a young age she needed to be rehabilitated, her interest in humans grew once released as she was fed regularly by tourists.

'After multiple relocations she found Cawsand Bay where we were able to control the situation better and keep people away.

'We all hoped she would rewild but upon discovering Plymouth this became more difficult and the feeding began once more and bad habits remained.

'This poor seal is an example of what happens when humans feed and habituate a wild animal. The animal is the one who suffers.'

In early April, Spearmint was found in the village of Cawsand, after she left the beach and wandered up the road.

People in Cawsand created a barricade to stop the seal from going on to the roads, however, Rame Wildlife Rescue Network said the seal persisted in climbing on boats and eventually managed to get across.

The seal was found wandering around the neighbouring village of Kingsand a couple of days later, making the seal's presence 'untenable', the BDMLR said.

On 7 April Spearmint was caught at Firestone Bay, Plymouth, by the BDMLR and returned to rehabilitation at the RSPCA West Hatch Animal Centre in Taunton, Somerset.

A spokesperson from the BDMLR said: 'Spearmint's behaviour had sadly been affected by people feeding her in the wild, resulting in her becoming over-friendly.

'We would like to share our heartfelt thanks to the large number of volunteers from many organisations and the community members who helped however they could with monitoring Spearmint over the last several months.

'Their efforts have given her the best chance possible to keep her in the wild in this region.'

Rame Wildlife Rescue Network said it hopes relocation plans will allow the seal to 'live a wild life'.

Another option would be spending the rest of her life in captivity in a seal sanctuary, the network said.

The group said the RSPCA will make an informed decision on the seal's future, however, the raised funds would 'give her the best possible solution going forward'.

'The key message throughout has been to give seals space and to not feed them, and we hope this carries through beyond Spearmint's story and prevent this from happening again to another seal,' the BDMLR added.