Friday 18 October 2019

Anger as signs to stay away from seals are ignored

Myles Buchanan

Two anglers had to be told to stop fishing beside a seal colony in Wicklow town after ignoring signage telling people to stay away during breeding season.

September to December is a particularly important time for grey seals as it is the breeding season during which time the adults seek safe sites to 'haul out' on land.

Signage has been erected by Wicklow County Council and Seal Rescue Ireland at the recently reopened cliff walk informing the public that the Lime-Kiln Bay is a Grey Seal pupping and resting area. The signs state: Please DO NOT go on the beach August - December.

However, two men ignored the signs and proceeded to fish just metres away from the colony on Sunday afternoon.

Members of the public called to the men to leave the beach but their pleas were ignored. The gardaí were contacted and ordered both men to leave the beach.

Cllr Mary Kavanagh was contacted numerous times by concerned members of the public who witnessed the two men's behaviour.

'Everyone was telling the two men to leave the beach and they both just ignored them. They were fishing only 20 metres or so away from the colony. There are also signs all the way up the walk warning people to stay away during breeding season.

'It's encouraging that so many people were angered by the actions of these two men. It shows the majority of people have a great affection and respect for wildlife, while, sadly, a minority still don't,' said Cllr Kavanagh.

Seals are largely protected under the Wildlife Act 1976 and it is illegal and dangerous to approach resting seals or to allow dogs to do so. Seals may abandon the area and mothers may abandon their pubs if disturbed by contact with humans or dogs.

Deirdre Burns, Heritage Officer for Wicklow County Council, said: 'Most "haul out" sites along the east coast of Ireland have public access. Therefore the behaviour of people visiting the coast is hugely important. The Municipal Districts of Wicklow and Greystones are working in tandem with Seal Rescue Ireland to raise public awareness of this issue by erecting information signs at known 'haul out' sites and restricting access to these areas as required. Our natural world is under increasing pressure from human influence and the council is pleading with beach users to act responsibly.'

Meanwhile, two swans have been killed by dogs which were allowed off their leads over recent weeks. Both incidents occurred at South Quay in Wicklow town, at the small beach overlooked by the old capstan. One swan was attacked by a large muscular dog being walked by a male, while the other swan was attacked a number of weeks later by a dog being walked by a woman. The dogs were off their leads in both incidents.

Both of the swans flew off after being injured and were later found by concerned members of the public and brought to a vet, but sadly passed due to the severity of their wounds. Swans are a protected species in Ireland.

'The lack of responsibility with these dog owners is quite staggering,' said Cllr Kavanagh. 'These were appalling attacks that could have easily been prevented. You should always keep your dog on a lead when near to wildlife. You would have to ask if these particular dog owners have any brains at all?'

Wicklow People