Trapped one-eyed seal who gorged on fish while in lake dies during rescue attempt

Nelson the seal - Nick North/SWNS
Nelson the seal - Nick North/SWNS

A one-eyed seal which ate £4,000 worth of fish after getting trapped in a lake in Essex has died during a failed rescue attempt.

Wildlife groups say they were forced to use tranquilliser guns to sedate the mammal as it had evaded previous rescue efforts and injured itself in recent days.

The grey seal first appeared in Marks Hall Fisheries in Rochford in December after swimming up a river inlet from the sea.

Owner Nick North was forced to close the lake to anglers for weeks after the “very fat” seal moved in and started snacking on dozens of carp, bream and catfish.

It is also believed to have been eating the local duck population.

The seal, nicknamed Nelson, evaded two previous attempts by wildlife groups to catch him.

The British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), which carried out the rescue attempt, said the seal had been suffering from multiple injuries before it decided to anaesthetise him.

Wound on his flipper

According to the wildlife charity he had an open wound on his rear flipper and an eye injury, having lived in the angling lake for more than six weeks.

The charity hoped to treat the animal before returning it to the sea "where it belonged".

Seal in reservoir - Nick North/SWNS
Seal in reservoir - Nick North/SWNS

The team was working with South Essex Wildlife Hospital, Rochford Council, Essex Police and the Environment Agency.

A BDMLR spokesman said: "This is a very sad outcome from a very tricky situation.

"Rescuing any animal using anaesthetic holds significant risk, but in this case the coalition deemed it was worth taking."

A specialist vet successfully darted the seal but the team were unable to capture the animal "due to unforeseeable complications".

Died while tranquillised

They believe it then died underwater while tranquillised.

Mr North said: "I'd just like it known that myself and Marks Hall Fisheries had nothing to do with the decision to use a tranquilliser dart to try and capture the seal.

"It was the sole responsibility of the BDMLR to use this method and they made the decision to go ahead.

"We were only on site as observers as I'm the licence holder for fishing rights at Rochford Reservoir."

Councillor Dave Sperring, of Rochford District Council which leads on environmental issues, said it was a “desperately sad” situation.

He added: "Occasionally things don't go as we hoped. It's one of these things that we have to face."