‘I had to step in’: Sabine comes face to face with a baby seal off the Belgian coast and adopts the right reflexes

Among all the animals present on the Belgian coast, more and more seals come to spend a few hours on our beaches or in our dunes. Seeing them is always a moment of admiration for hikers, but there are also reflexes to adopt to protect the animal… but also to protect yourself.

Sabine will not forget her holiday on the Belgian coast that took place at the end of March. She contacted us via the orange Alert Us button to tell us about one of her most beautiful dates. The professional soldier was going for a walk on the beach when, suddenly, his gaze shifted away, towards a breakwater. “I saw a little head looking its way“, she says. “I couldn’t believe it was a small seal. It was amazing, a true gift of life.

After the surprise, the 45-year-old woman comes to her senses and thinks. Because, of course, the curious began to gather near the animal. The day before, she had seen a small sign in Nieuwport telling you what to do if you saw a seal: stay away and keep the dogs on a leash. “I had to intervene with a person who wasn’t holding their dog“she remembers.”It could have ended in a confrontation between the two animals. But otherwise people kept a safe distance.”

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An association takes care of the stamps

She then decided to call the police. “they are used to“, she says. “They contacted a specialist association who quickly resolved the matter on their own.“This association is the “North Seal Team.” Created several years ago when the seal population in our waters increased, it now has more than 120 volunteers.

Els Deryck is one of them. Explains the various missions of the association. “First, we want to raise awareness of good behavior“, she explains.”So we have constant surveillance near Ostende beach because we know there will always be seals there.“The team also has a mobile brigade that crosses the entire coast.”We are ready to intervene, no matter the location. People can alert us via Whatsapp’.“The contact number is 0491/743278.

But why do seals get so close to humans on the Belgian coast??

On the Belgian coast, there are two types of seals: seals that come from the south and gray seals that come from the north. Throughout the year, therefore, there is a large presence of these animals in the North Sea. “In fact, the little grays don’t know how to swim“, explains the volunteer from the “North Seal Team”.So, if they go to the beach with their mother and the mother goes to get food, they are alone. The problem is, if she sees people around her baby, she doesn’t come back.

If seals come to the coast and even the dunes, it is largely to rest in winter or after a storm. “And then it becomes dangerous because there are people and dogs that can disturb them.“, she points out.”We must sometimes entrust the little ones to the Sealife aquarium. We avoid doing this as much as possible because the trip can be very stressful.

To protect the seals on the beach, the “North Seal Team” establishes a safety zone of about fifty meters. “And we take turns until the animal is rested enough to start on its own.“, says Els Deryck. “Often it takes many hours and even lasted several days.

A seal is cute, but it’s also mean. It bites very hard and does a lot of damage.

Sabine also wanted, by contacting us, to educate Walloon tourists on the correct actions to take in the event of an encounter with a seal. “Too bad there are no explanatory panels everywhere“she regrets it.”I’m from Malmedy and we know what to do in front of a deer or a wild boar. But in front of a seal, it’s not the same.”

“Educating Walloons and Brussels Residents

On the side of the “Northern Seal Team”, it is confirmed that francophones are less aware of the procedure to follow. “The Flemings have read many articles, but not the Walloons or the people of Brussels“, explains Els De Ryck.”They are very kind to animals, but they don’t have the right reflexes. For example, they tend to get close. But actually, a seal is cute, but it’s also mean. It bites very hard and does a lot of damage. Especially when the beast is stressed.

The association’s current priority is therefore awareness-raising. And for that, the “Seal Team of the North” is installing panels all over the coast.

Already last year, seals were seen off the Belgian coast:

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