During the past few weeks, baby seals have started washing up on Overstrand beaches. This occurs annually during the Cape Fur seal calving season which starts in November.
Seal moms nurse the cups for 7 – 8 months from November to August/September the following year, but after that, she must prepare herself to take care of the next pup she’s carrying and is due in November. The result is that her previous year’s pup is left to itself to find its nutrition.
If the pups learn to find food in the big ocean – they can fend for themselves. If they don’t, they end up on our beaches because many get swept away from their rookeries among the rocks or water’s edge – particularly during periods of high easterly winds and swells when their fat reserves are depleted and they are too cold to go to sea to hunt, meaning they die of starvation.
Weaned yearlings struggle as they learn to find their own food and as they make the transition to adulthood. In addition, young Cape fur seal pups cannot swim well and are born with a black coat whihc not yet insulated for survival in the ocean.
Beach walkers will also notice that adult males wash up each year, mostly from November to May, with a peak in January as it is breeding season. They lose body condition as they spend much time fighting one another to establish and maintain breeding territories.
If you see a baby seal and it appears unharmed, please leave it alone and do not touch it. Also do not try to return them to the water. It is perfectly natural for both adult seals and pups to come out of the water to rest for a day or two.
Maintain your distance.
Remember it is a wild animal and can bite severely. It is important to keep dogs leashed and to stay 50m away.
If you notice any obvious injuries and if the seal is retching or coughing, is entangled or seems very thin, please call the Environmental Management Section of Overstrand Municipality on 028 316 3724 or the Municipal Services Control Room 028 313 8000/8111 during office hours or the Emergency Fire & Rescue Control Room on 028 312 2400 (a/h). Alternatively, phone African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary (APSS) in Gansbaai on 072 598 7117 or the Overstrand Stranding Network on 082 746 5579 based in Hermanus or the Kogelberg Biosphere Wildlife Rescue Team on 082 380 9071.
It would be helpful to take a picture or a video to pass on to the Environmental team as this will enable them to make informed decisions regarding the urgency of their response.
If you find a dead seal along the shoreline, please report it to the Operational Department for possible removal on
Hermanus: 028 313 5051/8997/8157/8090
Gansbaai: 028 384 8300/8328/8367
Kleinmond: 028 271 8400/8404/8435/8465