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Rare black-coloured pups spotted among England’s largest grey seal colony

Photo issued by the National Trust showing one of ten Melanistic grey seal pups (right) which have been spotted by rangers at the National Trust's Blakeney Point in Norfolk over the course of the winter pupping season. Black seals are rare with approximately one in 400 grey seals being melanistic. The Rangers cannot tell if seals are grey or melanistic until they moult at two to three-weeks-old and the black velvety coat is revealed.

By Sam Russell, PA

Wardens have spotted 10 rare black-coloured seal pups among England’s largest grey seal colony on the north Norfolk coast.

Grey seals are born white, shedding their fur at about two to three weeks old to expose a grey coat underneath.

But around one in 400 grey seals have a velvety black coat instead, which is revealed when they moult, the National Trust said.

These are called melanistic seals – with melanism being the increased development of the dark-coloured pigment melanin.

Rangers have spotted 10 of the melanistic pups over the course of the winter’s pupping season at Blakeney Point and volunteer warden Hanne Siebers managed to photograph some of them.

The colony at the National Trust’s Blakeney National Nature Reserve in Norfolk is expected to see a record 4,000 new seal pups this season.

Numbers have grown to such an extent in recent years that rangers have had to rethink the way they count the seals born at the breeding ground.

Instead of counting them all individually, they will be counted in one area to give an indication of what is happening across the colony.

Due to the density of the colony, the National Trust has deemed it unsafe to walk through it, both for staff and for the seals.

The first grey seal pup was spotted at the nature reserve in 1988 and since then it has grown to be England’s biggest colony for the marine mammals, with numbers increasing from 25 youngsters born in 2001 to 3,399 pups in 2019.

This season’s count is ongoing.

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