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Seal pup escapes after being stuck in lobster pot while mother watches anxiously

The baby's mother stayed beside it as the pup struggled to free itself from the netting on the Isle of May.

Trapped: The seal pup struggled to free itself from the netting.
© Scottish Seabird Centre

A seal pup managed to free itself after getting stuck in a lobster pot which washed up on a nature reserve.

The baby, nicknamed Houdini, became trapped in the cage at Pilgrim’s Haven on the Isle of May in the Forth. Its mother stayed by its side as waves crashed around the pair and the pup struggled to free itself from the net.

After about an hour the young mammal managed to wriggle out of the tight hole.

However staff at the Scottish Seabird Centre, who watched the drama on their cameras, are not sure if it survived the ordeal. A young pup was found dead next to the rubbish a short time later.

The centre and Scottish Natural Heritage, who look after the island, are warning about the dangers rubbish in the ocean can do to wildlife.

Paul Nixon, from the seabird centre, said: "The scene was incredibly distressing for our visitors, staff and volunteers as we all watched, willing the pup to escape from drowning. While seals may look cute they can be extremely vicious animals who will fight to protect their young: this makes human contact nearly impossible.

"Visitors to the centre will see there is rubbish washed up on the Isle of May shore which is extremely difficult to get to and it poses a threat to the seals there. Litter and rubbish are a real problem – on our cameras we even see gannets on the Bass Rock lining their nests with plastic bags.

"Every year, marine litter kills thousands of marine mammals and seabirds around the world. Litter often ends up around our coast or in the sea and we appeal to everyone to respect Scotland’s seas and help our wildlife by disposing of rubbish properly and recycling wherever possible."

Scottish Natural Heritage visit the island during the summer months and clean as much as they can but have to leave the seals in peace during mating season.

David Pickett, Isle of May Reserve Manager, said: "During the visitor season myself, other members of staff and volunteers spend a lot of time removing rubbish from the island’s beaches. This year we must have cleared about a ton of discarded waste and just before we left for the winter we had cleared the beaches so it is disappointing to see this happen.

"Throughout October the Isle of May is home to around 3,000 seals, making it the largest grey seal colony on the east coast of Britain. We deliberately have no Firth of Forth boat trips to ensure the animals are not disturbed, but unfortunately incidents like this are not isolated. Marine pollution is a major issue and a real threat to all sorts of wildlife. We would urge everyone to work with us and make a stand."

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