Donna Nook

20th October 2011
Donna Nook Statement 2011

The Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust’s management of the Donna Nook National Nature Reserve allows tens of thousands of people to enjoy the incredible annual spectacle of pupping grey seals without causing damaging disturbance to the very animals they come to see.

However, uncontrolled access to the seals about a mile out across the beach had been building from 2006, reaching a peak of 1,500 people in 2009. This was thought to be a contributing factor to the otherwise unexplained rise in mortality amongst the seal pups in this outer sand banks area. In response to this, in 2010, the Wildlife Trust requested that all visitors remained behind the fence line and did not venture out onto the beach.

The Wildlife Trust is thankful to all the very kind and supportive photographers and other visitors who did stay off the beach. The result was a dramatic fall in the mortality of pups in the outer sand banks area, despite extremely harsh weather conditions and the coldest December on record. The 80% drop in numbers of people on the beach coincided with a 50% drop in the pup mortality.

Disappointingly, 314 people refused to cooperate. All but two of these people, went on to the beach with the sole purpose of photographing the seals, of those the majority were with organised commercial groups, members of photographic clubs or professional photographers from overseas (including those from Holland and Germany where access to seal colonies has been banned due to disturbance).

Pup mortality in the outer sand banks remains higher than in the dunes area, perhaps because of those who insist on ignoring the Wildlife Trust’s request. If all visitors remained behind the protective fence, it is possible that the mortality of these pups could be reduced further.

Visitors captured some stunning images from behind the fence, dispelling the myth that you can’t get good photos there. It is a credit to those who have used their skill and ingenuity to capture excellent images without causing any problems to seals or upsetting other visitors.

In light of this evidence, during the seal pupping in 2011, the Wildlife Trust will continue to request that all visitors watch and photograph the seals from the viewing area and that nobody walks amongst the seals on the beach.

Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, October 2011