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Frequently asked questions

Some of our Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are your opening hours?

    We are open most weekends, and holidays between 9.30-5.30. We open during the week when we can. Our opening times vary depending on the welfare of our seals in care, and the volume of seals on site.So, we advise that visitors check our website, or google, for available tours and opening times.

  • Where are you located?

    We are based in Courtown Co. Wexford. Our Eircode is Y25 PD92.

    Travelling by car is easy, you can find us after Exit 23 on the M11, then follow signs to Courtown. In Courtown we are located beside the Active Tribe Swimming pool near Courtown Harbour .

  • What are the costs of your tours?
    • M30 Minute Guided Educational Tour: €10 for Adults and €8 for children under 5 (younger children under 5 are free).arketing
    • Our Seal Feed and EnrichmentExperience:  €30 Per Person
    • Our Rescuer for the Day Experience: €70 Per person (Children must be over 10  to participate)
    • We have reduced rates at 50% off for people with an intellectual disability and carers who accompany are free.
    • For group rates for schools, community groups ,and larger visitor numbers, visit our schools & groups booking page
  • Why do the public pay for tours?

    Touring with us means you are directly supporting the seal patients in our care! As a non profit we depend on the funding from tours, it is vital for the survival of our rescue and rehabilitation operation. Our Seal Rescue is getting busier and busier year to year.  Not only are seals continuing to face threats, and injury, but awareness of our services has grown! Without public support, we would not be able to provide the vital rescue service, and rehabilitation care needed to bring rescue seals back to health, so they can have a second chance at life in the wild.

  • Can children take part in the Seal Feed and Enrichment Experiences?

    Yes as long as they are accompanied by an adult.

  • What should I wear?

    Please wear weather appropriate clothing. The majority of our facilities are outdoors, and are gravelled but can get mucky so please wear good footwear.

  • Can we hold a seal?

    We would never recommend holding or touching seals as they are wild animals and can bite, when they feel threatened or in pain. Their mouths also have nasty bacteria in them, if you are bitten it can lead to dangerous infection!  However, the benefit of our Rescue Tour is that you can get closer than is usually recommended in the wild, as our seals are safely inside our enclosures, and kennels! If you book one of our experiences, you get even closer to our seals behind the scenes at the seal enclosures and hospital, under the supervision and safe instruction of our Animal Care Team.

  • Can we feed a seal?

    If you book one of our Seal Feed andEnrichment Experiences, or our Rescuer for a Day Experience you will get to feed
    the seals! The seals are on a special diet, and are given a certain weight of fish every day to ensure they grow healthy
    and strong. We even add vitamins and medicine if they are needed! During the Experience bookings, you can help us
    to prepare the feeds. During these special experiences we coordinate your experience to fit in with the seals usual feeding times.

  • Why do you allow the public to tour inside your Seal Rescue?

    Tours of Seal Rescue Ireland allow us to engage with the public to inspire them to care about, and protect our native seal species, and the coastal areas they inhabit! A lot of seals are in care, are there due to man-made threats such as disturbance, water pollution, entanglement from plastics and netting, and non-sustainable fishing practices. So letting people know how they can help to reduce these threats is of great importance! When people visit and pay for their tour, they are directly supporting the, rescue, care, medical needs, food and rehabilitation of the seals, until they are ready for release!

  • What is the typical process of how a pup is rescued and where do I fit in as a Stranding Volunteer?

    Seal Rescue Ireland’s rescue hotline is displayed all over Ireland since we service the entire country. When we receive a phone call at the rescue centre we assess the situation based on the finders description and photos (if possible). If we think there could be an issue with the pup or we cannot assess anything from the phone call, we will try to find someone in the stranded pup’s area to go out and make an assessment. A stranding volunteer goes out to assess and if the pup needs to be taken into the hospital a transport is organised. The 1st responder will NOT be responsible to drive the pup all the way back to Seal Rescue Ireland in Courtown, Co. Wexford but the help is welcomed.

    If a seal is healthy , yet in a busy location, you may also be asked if you would be willing to godown to the site and educate the public about the seal pup or put up signs to let the public know that the seal is in a good condition but needs to be left alone and people and dogs need to stay away. This can have a huge impact of the survival of a seal pup born in a busy area. Some people may call this ‘seal sitting’ when asking you to help…It is like babysitting but so much better!

  • How will I be notified of pups in my area?

    There are a few ways you might be notified: Through the Facebook Volunteer Group, Through Whatsapp Group Messaging, or Through a phone call or text message.

  • When will I get calls?

    Our busiest times of the year are the start of summer and start of winter. These are the times when pupping occurs. It is all dependent on the year and weather that year but typically we will see a rush of rescues in June, July and August and again in November, December, January. Rescues are not scheduled so you can expect to get calls from 8am-8pm any day of the week unless you specify the times and days you are available. The more you are available the more chances you have being involved in a rescue! Please contact the rescue line at anytime if you availability has changed.

  • What supplies will I need to be prepared?

    Suggested Basic Rescue Kit List: Large Towels, Large sheet (cover kennel if animal can see out), Large Bin(with lid), fish box or dog kennel for animal transport (pups are from 7-18kg), Protective gloves (fire pit gloves would great), Latex or Nitrile gloves to protect from feces or other contaminants, thermometer, camera, full water bottles (use to cooling seal if they are overheating)or hot water bottle if animal is cold but WARM SLOWLY.

    Advance Rescue Kit will include medical equipment and equipment to administer oral fluids. This will be explained overtime when you reach a more advanced stage.

  • Who Pays for what?

    Transport Costs: Volunteers cover their own petrol and transport costs

    Animal Treatment: If an animal needs vet care, Seal Rescue Ireland will cover vet costs. This work or medications or any costs MUST be pre-approved otherwise the cost is placed on the volunteer.

  • Are there any risks associated with coming in contact with seals?

    There are zoonotic diseases that are transferable from animal to human as well as there are diseases that humans can transmit to an animal. You must be aware of this and know to always use protective gear and properly wash any clothing or laundry that has come in contact with the seals.Some seals have internal parasites or other issues that are not evident from the naked eye so always use precautions. If you ever get bit by a seal clean the wound immediately – you may potentially need to get on specific antibiotics – more details will come with training.

  • Will we ever rescue anything other than seals?

    Every now and then we get calls for terrestrial wildlife and other marine mammals. We may ask you to respond to other marine mammals but it is not likely. There have been some cetacean(dolphin, porpoise, whales) type standings that we have responded to but we are unable to take them in for rehab. Any other calls about other wildlife needing rescuing will be referred to other rescue groups.

  • Are there things I can do when not rescuing?

    There are heaps of volunteer projects you can do from your own home. It takes a lot of different skills and tasks to keep a rescue centre up and running. Please contact the volunteer coordinator if you have free time to assist with computer projects. This may include stuff such as data entry, googling projects, researching funding options, or getting quotes about things from different companies. The list is endless and we are sure to have something suiting for everyone that is willing to help! Even if you have 1 extra hour in the week to put to this that would be AMAZING!

  • What do I need for applying for internship?

    Please send the following documents to intern@sealrescueireland.org

    • Cover letter stating your interest and availability
    • Résumé / CV
    • Completed Application Form

    Download Application Form document below.

    Application Form

    If you are interested in other Seal Rescue Ireland volunteering opportunities please visit this page.

  • Programme Requirements:

    The following programme requirements are the following below.

    • Minimum of 12-weeks, but longer commitments are encouraged.
    • We expect our interns to be passionate and committed to animal welfare as well as marine conservation.
    • Willing to work long hours in sometimes challenging conditions.
  • Intern Accommodation:

    Seal Rescue Ireland offers shared housing for interns and staff at the rate of €90.00 per week. This accommodation is located just a short walk from the Centre and includes food, basic living needs, electricity, wifi and bed in a shared room.

    Please send accommodation inquirys to intern@sealrescueireland.org

  • Internship Programme Brochure:

    Get our Internship Programme Brochure. Explore immersive opportunities in marine mammal care, conservation, and rehabilitation. Download now for details.

    Program Brochure
  • Why do seals look like dogs?

    Seals and dogs share physical similarities because they are closely genetically related. Both seals and dogs are found within the sub-order Caniformia. Another group of animals in the same sub-order are bears, who are even more closely related to seals than dogs are! 

  • Why are seals important?

    Seals have inhabited Irish coastlines for thousands of years playing a critical role in balancing the ecosystem and recycling nutrients. They are considered ‘doctors’ of the sea by removing sick or weak individuals from prey populations and leaving the strong and healthy individuals to go on and reproduce, thus driving the evolution of many prey species. Due to this vital role at the top of the food chain, they are considered a “keystone species” as they have a disproportionately large impact on the ecosystem in which they reside.

    Seals also play an important role as a “Bio-indicator” species, which means we can monitor their populations, behaviours, and health for key insights to better understand marine biodynamics of a given ecosystem.

  • When and where do seals sleep?

    Seals tend to come up onto the shore to sleep. They spend around half of their time on land, with roughly 75% of that time spent resting. Seals can also rest in the water, sleeping with half of their brain still active!

  • Why do seals slap themselves/ their bellies?

    Seals slap their bellies in order to send a message to other seals. It lets them communicate to perceived threats that they are strong and alert. These slaps will emit warning signals via low-frequency sound waves which can be picked up by other seals thanks to their acute hearing. 

  • What do seals eat?

    Many of seals’ food sources have disappeared because of unsustainable fishing practices. As a result, seals have needed to work harder and become more opportunistic to survive. This means they will eat anything that’s available to them. 

    In Ireland, it is predicted that Sandeels, Cod and Dover Sole account for 56% of a Grey Seal’s diet by weight, and also eat other flatfish, including Dab, Flounder and Plaice. A Grey Seal’s diet varies by location, though they are largely demersal or benthic feeders, (meaning that they feed off of the bottom of the seafloor). Harbour Seals eat many similar species, but they are more generalist feeders that take a wide variety of fish, cephalopods, and crustaceans obtained from the surface, mid-water, and benthic habitats. Their diet is highly varied, and animals from different populations and areas show differences. There is also variation associated with seasonal changes in the abundance of prey.

  • Why are seals fat? Do all seals have fur?

    Like all mammals, seals have fur (although they often appear slimy when wet, but when dry their fur is soft and fluffy!). Many seal species live in cold regions and feel the effects of this cold when they spend so much of their time in the water. Because of this, seals have developed a layer of fat called “blubber”. Blubber covers their body under the skin and is filled with blood vessels. These vessels transport blood around to keep the seal warm. When a seal dives into especially cold water, the blood vessels in the blubber contract, preventing heat loss from the body into the frigid outside conditions. All seal species also have fur to keep them warm and insulated as well. 11 species of Pinnipeds live in the Arctic Circle, and therefore need to be especially fat to keep warm! These are: Harbour Seals, Grey Seals, Bearded Seals, Arctic Seals, Ringed Seals, Spotted Seals, Ribbon Seals, Harp Seals, Northern Fur Seals, and Walruses. 

  • Are seals endangered?

    Of the 34 living species of Pinnipeds (True Seals, Sea Lions, and Walruses), 9 are currently considered threatened and appear on the IUCN Red List. Included in these threatened species are the Walrus, the Northern Fur Seal, and the Hooded Seal. In Ireland, the Grey Seal was almost hunted to extinction until legal protections were introduced in the 1970s. Since then, the numbers have slowly recovered, but are still a very small percentage of what they once were.

  • Which mythical beliefs relate to seals?

    There are many myths surrounding seals, particularly in Celtic and Norse areas of the world. One example is the myth of “Selkies”, creatures who can change their skin to take on either a seal or human form. The ancient Celtic folklore tale of the Tuatha Dé Danann tells of how the first seals of Ireland came to be, as babies thrown into the sea were magically changed into seals when touched by the God of the Sea. In other Irish folklore, many believed that seals were the spirits of sailors or fishermen that were lost at sea.

  • What species of seal live in Ireland/UK?

    There are 2 native seal species living in Ireland and the UK: the Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus) and the Common/Harbour seal (Phoca vitulina). There have been other species that have been found on our shores, including  Bearded Seals, Hooded Seals, and an Arctic Ringed Seal we rescued and cared for in 2020 called Cloudberry and Wally the Walrus in 2021. However, none of these species are considered permanent members of the Irish and UK seal population.

  • When do seals give birth?

    The pupping season for Grey Seals ranges from Late Summer, into Autumn/Winter (August – January) while Common Seals pup during the Summer (June-September), returning to the same place every year to breed and give birth. While Winter seems an odd time to give birth for Grey Seals, a possible explanation for why is because the females are in better shape after a summer of eating fish to produce enough rich, fatty milk to feed their young.

  • How do seals swim?

    Seals swim by moving their back flippers from side to side, propelling them through the water, while they use their front two flippers to give direction and steer. Grey and Common seals dive on average up to 100m however they have been recorded as deep as 500m!

  • How long are seals pregnant for, and how do they give birth?

    Seals mate in the water after their pupping season. The total gestation period for seals lasts 9-11 months, with dates of pupping changing depending on the sea-surface temperature. They normally give birth on land. If you see a seal pup that may be in trouble you can use our rescue line.

  • Can seals breathe underwater?

    Seals are semi-aquatic marine mammals and therefore cannot breathe underwater, so they hold their breath when they dive. While the average dive for greys and commons is 5-10 minutes, they are capable of being underwater for a maximum time of around 30 minutes. Larger pinnipeds are capable of staying underwater for much longer, for example, southern elephant seals can hold their breath for up to 100 minutes!

  • Can seals live on land?

    Seals are semi-aquatic, which means that although they are built for life at sea, they must have access to land as they spend roughly half of their time hauled out to rest, digest their food, re-oxygenate their blood, nurse their young and socialize. Although seals must have access to water to hunt and travel, it is perfectly normal to observe seals on land and is vital to respect them from a safe distance to avoid disturbing their natural behaviours and wasting their vital energy stores.

    Seals will also come to shore in great numbers during the pupping seasons and when moulting their fur (July-August for Harbour Seals, December-January for Grey Seals). Unlike Sea Lions, seals have short front flippers and un-rotatable back flippers meaning they can’t lift themselves up off the beach to move or make a quick escape. The seals move on land by a method called ‘galumphing’; undulating their body to create forward momentum. This means they are slow-moving on land and vulnerable to disturbances.

  • Where can seals be found?

    Seals have a worldwide distribution and can be found in most coastal areas, however, they are particularly abundant in cold polar waters. The distribution also varies greatly between species; grey seals occupy a relatively small area with over 40% of the entire population resident to the UK and Ireland, whereas common seals are the most widely distributed pinniped and can be found in coastal waters of the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans and Baltic and North seas.

  • Can seals live in freshwater?

    All seals can tolerate living in freshwater, however, the only species to live exclusively in freshwater is the Baikal seal.

  • Can seals have twins?

    Seals usually give birth to a single pup with the reproductive system of pinnipeds not favouring twins, however, twins (of both grey and common seals) have been recorded to have survived to weaning both in captivity and the wild.

  • Can seals drown?

    As seals are mammals that use lungs to breathe oxygen, it is possible for seals to drown. This most commonly occurs when young pups without fully developed lungs or swimming muscles get caught in storms and become exhausted. Adult seals are also capable of drowning if forced to stay underwater for longer than their lungs can hold oxygen, such as when they become entangled in fishing gear under the surface. 

  • Are seals friendly?

    Seals are curious animals and occasionally seek out interactions with scuba divers, but they are wild animals and are generally not naturally friendly towards humans. They are mostly solitary and are usually only seen in large groups during pupping and mating seasons.

  • Can seals be aggressive or harm humans?

    If you see a seal in the wild, make sure you keep a distance of at least 100m, and treat the wild animal with the care and respect it deserves. As long as you follow these steps, a seal should not be aggressive towards you. Seals are large, powerful animals with sharp teeth and strong jaws, and will bite if they feel threatened. In humans, if a seal bite were to become infected by the bacteria Mycoplasma phocacerebrale, it can lead to a painful infectious disease known as “seal finger” as well as other complications.

  • Are seals dangerous to dogs?

    Seals can become aggressive when approached or attacked by dogs (which is, unfortunately, a common problem as dogs are so popular!). As seals are built for speed and agility in the water, they are slow to escape on land which leaves them vulnerable to attacks and explains why they will bite when provoked. With strong jaws and sharp teeth, they can cause serious injury.  Seals are genetic cousins to dogs, so they can spread zoonotic diseases to one another. This is why it is extremely important, for the safety of both seals AND dogs, to always keep a distance of at least 100m from any seal you see in the wild, and always keep your dog on a lead if you think there is a chance it may encounter a seal.

  • Why are seals evil? Which seals eat penguins?

    Seals, like any animal, are not capable of being “evil”. While seals can become aggressive when threatened, or predate other animals (including charismatic animals like penguins) this is just their natural behaviour and is required for their survival. Of the 33 species of seals, there are only 5 that have been recorded eating penguins; the New Zealand Fur Seal, the South American Sea Lion, the Australian Sea Lion, the Weddell Seal, and the Leopard Seal.

    The biggest threats to penguins are climate change, pollution, habitat loss, and biodiversity loss brought on by human activities, and are the same threats that many of our seal species face.

  • Are seals and sea lions the same?

    While seals and sea lions, along with walrus, are part of the same suborder of Pinnipedia, they do have several traits which make them unique. Seals are part of a family called Phocidae, also known as true seals, while Sea lions are part of the family called Otariidae, commonly known as eared seals. While the 2 families are closely related the names aren’t interchangeable. One difference between seals and sea lions is that seals have internal ears, whereas sea lions have external ear flaps visible on their profile. Sea lions are capable of rotating their joints on their flippers to lift themselves off the land and “walk”, whereas true seals always remain more or less flat along the land, gyrating their bodies to “galumph” on land. Sea lions use their front flippers for propulsion and their back flippers for steering, but it’s the opposite for true seals who use their back flippers for propulsion and front flippers to steer.

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