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Scores of dead seals with horrific 'corkscrew' injuries found in Britain

08-18-2010 15:20 BJT

For animal lovers, the sight is as heartbreaking as it is mysterious.

Spared, so far ... a colony of grey seals on one of the Farne Islands off Northumberland
Spared, so far ... a colony of grey seals on one of the Farne Islands off 
Northumberland

Scores of dead seals have been washed up on shore with terrible ‘corkscrew’ injuries, as if they have passed through a giant pencil sharpener.

Such is the concern that police, scientists, the RSPCA and National Trust are all investigating the disturbing phenomenon.

The bodies of more than 50 common and grey seals have been found on the Norfolk coast since November.

Thirteen have so far been the subject of post mortem examinations, but most were so badly mutilated that they were of no help to those seeking answers to the mystery.

In the Firth of Tay, seven were found dead in June out of a breeding population of only 150.

Eighteen further deaths have been reported in St Andrews Bay and the Firth of Forth in the past two months.

The injuries are not consistent with any known phenomenon, such as those caused by fishing nets or boat propellers, although researchers believe they are mechanically produced by a rotating single blade.

While seals have learned to be wary of approaching boats and tend to swim away from them, researchers believe it is possible the animals are being sucked into the propeller blade of an as yet unidentified vessel.

But the investigation has failed to find any kind of offshore machinery capable of producing such wounds.

Populations of common seals have been devastated in recent years.

Once the cause of the mysterious injuries is established, scientists hope to work with ship designers to find ways of limiting the damage caused.


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