A startled resident of Billinghay in Lincolnshire awoke yesterday (20 July) to find an unexpected sight - a fully grown female grey seal lounging on her patio.
The seal had wriggled out of the nearby River Skirth and up the bank, into her garden.
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Anne Page called her son, Rob, for help, who in turn called local police wildlife officer Pc Martin Green.
Rob said: “Mum was quite surprised. It’s not your everyday thing you see. I tried calling the RSPCA and the seal sanctuary but couldn’t get a response, so called a friend in the police and he came along and dealt with it.
“The seal seemed very tame and quite relaxed. She was in the sun at first but then moved into the shade when the temperature rose as I got there.”
Initially thinking he was having his leg pulled, Pc Green quickly learned that a well-known seal had been swimming up and down the River Witham for over a year, regularly sighted and videoed catching fish near Tattershall Bridge.
The wildlife officer said: “The RSPCA have received numerous reports about this seal, nicknamed Dandy, but whenever they have turned up they cannot find her.”
He assumed Dandy had decided to make a detour up the Skirth, but said: “At this time of year the Skirth is only eight feet wide and one and a half feet deep and full of weed - not suitable for a seal.”
Having asked the householders to bar the way back to the river until he arrived, he enlisted the help of an RSPCA inspector and they found her taking shade under a tree.
Mr Page added: “We kept our distance and did try to give her some sardines, but I guess she didn’t want them in tomato sauce! Even the police and RSPCA used boards to usher her into a kennel.”
Pc Green said: “By that point the seal had moved onto the garden.
“She was in good condition for her age.
“I would say she weighed 60 to 70kg. It was not easy to get her into a kennel in the back of his (the inspector’s) van.
“We then released her into the River Welland down river from Fosdyke Bridge near a grey seal colony.”
Mr Page was glad the seal was now back where she belonged instead of struggling among the algae found in the Skirth at this time of year.
Apparently Dandy has a bit of a record for straying and has been rescued and released by the RSPCA once before in the past.
Pc Green said: “This is very rare. I have dealt with three seals in my 23 years of policing. We would not recommend people approaching seals, instead call an expert as they can give a nasty bite.”
A version of this article was originally published on our sister title, Lincolnshire World