WILDLIFE & SAFETY
WILDLIFE From time to time beach visitors get an opportunity to encounter some spectacular marine wildlife both alive and dead. This can range from seals and birds to whales and dolphins and even agricultural animals. All are intriguing and attract attention but all are a potential risk to human health as well as amenity (in the case of dead strandings). Here are a few guidelines. LIVE STRANDINGS When encountering a living animal on a north coast beach, keep a minimum distance of 1 metre and encourage others to do similar. Immediately contact Environment & Heritage Service at Portrush who are responsible for all wildlife, also report all sightings to Irish Whale & Dolphin Group (www.iwdg.ie). WARNING – seals Living seals (adults and pups) are dangerous and can cause serious injury by biting. Do not attempt to lift, 43
stroke or remove a live seal. In the absence of obvious injury, the animal may well be hauled out by choice. Simply leave in peace and admire from a distance. WELFARE – whales In the event of encountering a live stranded whale, dolphin or porpoise (cetacean), immediately contact EHS at Portrush or Coastguard. They will initiate a welfare procedure to refloat the animal. Meantime approach quietly, avoid sudden movements and crowding. If conditions are sunny keep animal’s skin wetted, taking every effort to avoid water entering the blowhole (situated on top of the head). You may be asked to volunteer assistance (subject to conditions). DEAD STRANDINGS Unfortunately we tend to encounter more dead than live animals which may simply be part of the natural mortality rate of the marine environment. Most animals will be in varying states of decay and as well as unpleasant to look at, will also pose a threat to human health. Be advised
not to touch dead animals and birds. Again call either EHS at Portrush or the relevant Council or other beach manager (eg. National Trust). JELLYFISH At certain times of the year you may encounter several hundred stranded jellyfish usually after storms. Some jellyfish sting and some don’t. Even immediately after death there may be an ability to cause injury. Just ignore and let nature take its course. Natural marine litter and flotsam can contain many interesting specimens such as egg cases of skates (mermaids purse) and whelks. Also goose barnacles (attached to debris), sea urchins, star fish and little ‘by the wind sailors’.
Dead harbour porpoise, Downhill Beach
C.B.C. Stranded Minke Whale at Portstewart 1993