At 11pm on a Friday night most kebab shops expect to be visited by noting more exotic than a few thoroughly refreshed pub patrons.
But the Istanbul Delight in Hemsby, Norfolk, welcomed a more unpredictable visitor last night – a somewhat confused seal pup.
Experts say the animal had turned up at the takeaway, a good four or five minutes walk from the sea, after venturing inland to find shelter and then losing its sense of direction.
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Dan Goldsmith from wildlife charity Marine and Wildlife Rescue, said they were called in just after 11pm on Friday: “We spoke to a couple of people that were milling around there and thought it was a wind-up, they were like: ‘No, you won’t find a seal around here mate.”
But after searching the area for some time," he said, "we eventually found the seal shuffling along on a path outside an amusement arcade called the Mirage.
“The pup must have just been looking for some shelter, but got disoriented and kept heading inland.”
Dan, 38, said the young pup appeared to be in good health, and so he and one of his colleague loaded it onto a stretcher and carried it back to the beach.
He added that seal populations have boomed in recent years – leading to a sharp increase in sightings even quite far inland.
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“This was more the unusual end of what we do, but this is becoming more of a common occurrence,” he said. “We responded to one the day before funnily enough, it was out on a road quite a few miles inland”.
He added: “I remember 20 years ago we didn’t get hardly any calls about seals, maybe two a week … I get probably at peak times 15-20 calls for different seals a day at the minute.”
Grey seal numbers in the UK declined to as low as 500 in the early 1900s, but the current population is thought be in the region of 120,000.
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As we are currently in the pupping season, sightings are even more likely.
But Dan warned that even though seals look cuddly, they can deliver a nasty bite if they feel cornered: “We do get people that mean really well, that want to help and they’ve done things in the past but have been injured,” he said.
“Call a rescue organisation like us to assess because we’re used to working with them.
“They’re very quick and responsive … and they can look very docile and friendly, but they’re not, they are really quite hostile things.”
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