In the largest grey seal colony on the north Norfolk coast in England, wildlife officers have discovered 10 extremely rare black seal pups. Born with a white coat which sheds within about 2-3 weeks, the grey coat of the grey seal pups are then revealed beneath the white skin. According to the National Trust, only 1 in 400 grey seals have velvety black coats.
For you knowledge seekers out there, Melanism is the enhanced growth of dark colored pigment in the skin. As this dark colored pigmentation is higher in these seals, they are known as melanistic seals. In Blakeney Point, during the pupping season in winter, wildlife rangers saw 10 of these melanistic pups. Volunteer warden Hanne Siebers was luckily there and was able to snap a few photos of these pups.
The National Trust explains regarding these seals: “Typically, grey seals are born white but their coat changes color when they shed their fur. Like their name suggests, it’s only when they molt a black velvety coat can be revealed. Black seals are rare with research suggesting approximately 1 in 400 grey seals are melanistic. Our rangers have spotted 10 so far this season. Melanism is the increased development of the dark-colored pigment melanin.”
According to the National Trust, 4,000 baby seal pups were born this year at Blakeney National Nature Reserve in Norfolk, England. As the number of seals born at the breeding site has expanded leaps and bounds, rangers have reconsidered on how to count these seals, and to get an overall picture of how this colony of new pups are doing, they are tallied in a single location. Due to the density of the colony, the National Trust has declared it hazardous for both seals and employees to go through the colony.
The nature reserve’s first grey seal pup was discovered back in 1988, and since then, they have grown from 25 pups in 2001 to 3,399 seal pups in 2019, and this season, there is still quite a lot of work to be done. The National Trust also warns you to keep your distance if you see a seal or seal pup, saying: “If you ever come across a seal or a pup, please keep your distance and do not approach or disturb these wild animals in any way, as this may cause unnecessary stress.”