A wild seal has been taken into rehab after becoming overly friendly with humans. Spearmint the seal is a wild grey seal who has become too used to human company. Spearmint was first seen alone in Wales, 2020, it was suspected that she had been separated from her mum. Once rescued by the RSPCA West Hatch, Spearmint was treated for an eye and ear infection, after rehabilitation she was released around the North Devon coast. 

Soon Spearmint was spotted in Ilfracombe where she became exposed to the risks of people feeding her. She soon became the talk of the town, hauling herself onto slipways and beaches where people would take selfies and feed her sandwiches. Spearmint was beginning to become a problem, and would soon cause harm to herself and potentially people at the beach. Spearmint was again relocated further down the coast to a more remote location, however she returned back to the beaches of Ilfracombe by the next day. 

Despite the efforts to educate tourists and local people, Spearmint was relocated several times, after being spotted in coastal towns such as Dartmouth and Salcombe. 

Eventually she appeared in Cawsand, this is where she would spend the next seven months. A small team of local people, many of which have experience in seal health care, spent time looking after Spearmint, ensuring she was safe and healthy as well as offering information to tourists who would visit the beach. Spearmint soon began to gain more interest in humans, even taking to swimming alongside them in the sea, playing with them by climbing on top of them. Spearmint had also taken to wondering off the beach onto the roads, and was even found under a stationary lorry once. 

As the winter months drew in and the tourist season started to calm down, Spearmint  eventually ventured into Plymouth, and at this point the seal watch team, the RSPCA, the police and British Divers marine life rescue discussed relocating her to a very isolated location in Scotland. After a huge community effort from Plymouth and Cawsand to support Spearmint and keep her safe around the busy coastal towns, Spearmint was taken back into West Hatch. A health assessment found another ear infection which now meant that Spearmint could not be relocated till it was treated. Members of the Spearmint appreciated society suggested to the RSPCA that Spearmint could be taken to a sanctuary, such as the Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek. But The RSPCA’s policy on relocating wild animals states that they can not release wild animals into sanctuary’s as it would cause them a lot of stress, which means that if relocation back into the wild is not possible, euthanasia is is one of the options.

Jessica Collins, founder of the Spearmint the seal appreciation society said: “Like many people, over the months I have gotten to know Spearmints’ character. She is not like most wild seals I have watched and sadly does seem to enjoy human company. I have experience with seals at the seal sanctuary from my time there and have no reason to believe she should not be given the opportunity to try it. Obviously, release would be better but the animal care team at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary are second to none and provide an outstanding life for their residents. From personal experience I know how much they care for the animals they are responsible for, they do not suffer and live an enriched full life. I doubt the RSPCA think that the seals in the Seal sanctuary would have been better off put to sleep. Hopefully they will do the right thing.

“It is important to remember that none of this would have happened if people hadn’t fed her and engaged her. She has been habituated by people ignoring guidance that was very clearly displayed. Please if you see a wild seal enjoy from a distance, don’t disturb it and most certainly do not feed them.”

Since being in rehabilitation, Spearmint has been treated for the ear infection and has recovered, she has been moved from an isolation pen to an area with other seals.  

The uncertainty of Spearmints fait has cause huge up-roar within the local community. The Spearmint the seal appreciation society has gained over 1,200 members who are actively engaging in Spearmints journey. A petition to change the RSPCA policy which will allow wild animals to live out their lives in a sanctuary has gained 2,605 signatures and counting.

The crowd funder page set up to help raise the funds needed to help with a safe relocation of Spearmint to Scotland has exceeded its target and has raised £6,463.

To find out more about Spearmint’s journey and watch for updates visit: https://www.facebook.com/groups/556738672293193