Fort-Mahon-Plage, Quend, Le Crotoy: What to do if you find a dead seal?

Sarah Monnet is responsible for marine mammal studies for the association Picardie Nature (Somme). (©The Journal of Abbeville)

Sara Monet is responsible for the studies of marine mammals for thePicardy Nature Association (Somme). Your job is to study all these animals on the coast of Picardy and particularly seals in the Baie de Somme.

News: What is the attitude to adopt when a dead or distressed animal is discovered by the sea or in the Baie de Somme?

Sara Monet: There are two specific scenarios. Either the animal is dead or it is alive.

First scenario, it’s a dead animal we found…

SM: If the animal is dead, and if you have a smartphone, get the GPS coordinates and call the Pelagis observatory (05 46 44 99 10, editor’s note) This is the national structure that coordinates the grounding of the national grid. All you have to do is give your position, explaining that you have observed such an animal in such an area, trying to be as accurate as possible about the location. Thus, the observatory will contact the local correspondent of the network trained to intervene and authorized by the Ministry to intervene. We are talking about protected species and therefore not everyone is allowed to intervene. It doesn’t matter the species.

Do you provide safety instructions?

SM: Don’t get close to the corpse. It is a mammal and can transmit diseases to humans. Sometimes it happens that an animal is discovered several hours or days after its death and its body is decomposing, there are inevitably respiratory diseases that can be triggered by contact with a corpse.

And what to do when the animal is alive and seems lost?

SM: As far as cetaceans are concerned, it is very rare because usually, when it runs aground, it is because it is dead. In the case of a live stranded marine mammal, cetaceans, it is very rare, because usually when it strands it is already dead. When this is the case, we will try to get you back in the water as soon as possible. But not everyone can do it, even if it starts with good will. If you take the marine mammal the wrong way, you can hurt it more than anything else. You have to be trained and allowed to intervene.

“He can bite and scratch”

Should we also notify the Pelagis observatory?

SM: It is necessary to take the same approach as for a dead animal. You have to declare your position. A procedure will be put in place for someone to act very quickly. He still works with firefighters to intervene more quickly because they have the proper equipment to intervene. With seals, this is regularly the case, especially in the summer with pups born a few weeks earlier. After providing your location data, you should go back as far as possible. Even though it is a live animal, under stress, if you try to touch it to see how it is doing, it can bite and scratch. An animal that feels in danger will try to defend itself. He’s not basically aggressive, he’s just scared and will react accordingly.

We can also imagine that there is your mother nearby…

SM: Absolutely, and she can take it or take care of it. If she sees humans around, she will have a survival instinct. Either she abandons her child and will have another the following year, or she comes back knowing she’s putting herself in danger. A wild animal will fight for its survival and abandon its young. People think they’re doing the right thing by staying around to comfort you. A young man may cry to call his mother to eat. But it’s not the cry of a baby, it’s the cry of a wild animal. On the savannah, it wouldn’t occur to us to go pet a lion cub knowing its mother might be nearby.

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