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Seal finds new home at town centre harbour

The seal - pictured from 25ft away - at the wooden slipway on Thursday morning. Photo: Helen Iliffe-Adsett

THE ARCTIC bearded seal which took up residency in the centre of Lerwick appears to have found a new home elsewhere at Victoria Pier after its slipway was blocked off over concerns that the animal may become distressed by the attention of the public.

Lerwick Port Authority, which owns the slipway, put up barriers next to the water on Wednesday afternoon to block off the seal following discussions with Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary.

Port authority harbourmaster Calum Grains said the barriers had been put up due to concerns that the seal might get distressed with the amount of people it had been attracting.

The sanctuary’s Jan Bevington said she had hoped that the seal would take up residence elsewhere – and it appears young female has done just that, with the animal seen on Thursday morning on a wooden slipway just a stone’s throw away.

Local tour boats were using the slipway again later on Thursday after two cruise ships visited Lerwick.

Barriers were put up on Wednesday afternoon to encourage the seal to move elsewhere. Photo: Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary

The seal, which is thought to be moulting, has enjoyed big interest from onlookers since it appeared at the small boats harbour at Victoria Pier on Friday.

People had been warned not to approach the marine animal and cones were quickly put in at the top of the slipway in a bid to prevent people from walking down – although there have been reports that some tried to get a closer look at the seal from just feet away.

Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary said on Facebook on Wednesday that “we would all like her to be left in peace, but it’s not possible for a whole range of reasons”.

Writing on Thursday morning after the seal was seen on the other slipway, the sanctuary reminded people to “stay away from her and admire her from a distance so she can stay there in peace and everyone can enjoy the view”.

Visitor Helen Iliffe-Adsett was pleased to see the seal reappear on the wooden slipway after being left disappointed when she saw the barriers being put up on Wednesday.

The animal enthusiast visits Shetland every year to see the local wildlife and had only arrived off the boat that day with a hope of getting the “once in a lifetime opportunity” to see the bearded seal.

The seal on Thursday morning at the other slipway. Photo: Helen Iliffe-Adsett

She managed catch a glimpse of the seal at 5am on Thursday morning from a safe distance.

“We got good photos of a very relaxed seal and I’m over the moon we managed to see her,” Iliffe-Adsett said. “If she’d gone away of her own accord I would have understood.”

Bearded seals belong to the Arctic Ocean but are occasionally seen as far south as Shetland. Two years ago a bearded seal chose to spend the whole summer at Mid Yell.