Who needs to go to the Serengeti? – Teesside’s own megafauna, the seals, reach record levels.
The Tees Seals Research Programme (TSRP) this year recorded the highest total number of seals counted on the Tees for around 200 years. On 21 August some 115 Harbour Seals and 66 Grey Seals were counted over the same low tide period on Seal Sands and Greatham Creek. This total of 181 seals is 17% higher than the highest previous total count and given that there would be some seals elsewhere in the estuary the total number will almost certainly be in excess of 200.
Harbour Seal numbers were marginally at their highest but appear to have reached something of a plateau over the past three years, as does the number of Harbour Seal pups. Grey Seal numbers, on the other hand, increased notably this year with a new highest maximum count of at least 83 animals.
Outside of the formal Tees Seals Research Programme, a series of casual counts of seals were collated by INCA, which help to give a broader picture of the seal population in the Tees Estuary. These confirm that Greatham Creek is used by Harbour Seals throughout the year and over high tide, with a mean of 20 seals recorded there between November and early June. They also confirm that Grey Seals are hauling out throughout the year with indications that their numbers are at their highest on the Tees in early summer. The 2016 TSRP giving full details of this year’s seal monitoring can be found here.