Spearmint is a seal with a strange addiction. Somehow she has come to know the people who frequent the waters of Plymouth Sound in Devon, England, and has a habit of approaching them for attention. About seven months ago, Spearmint was caught mingling with tourists and locals of the town, hitching rides on boats, she even wandered down to the local pub a few times. However, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals made it clear that people should not interact with the endangered pinniped seal.
The RSPCA has since relocated Spearmint to a facility that will hopefully help her get over her need for attention. They hope to release her in northern Scotland, away from the temptation of humans. The Rame Wildlife Rescue Network raised over $6500 to help relocate the seal and noted that this isn't the first time she's been admitted to a rehabilitation facility.
Jessica Collins, a volunteer for the Cornwall Seal Group and a marine medic at British Divers Marine Life Rescue, stated that Spearmint is an endangered species and has become habituated to humans, meaning the seal has been fed, pet, and interacted with so much that it is now dependent on this interaction for survival.
“Although at a young age she needed to be rehabilitated, her interest in humans grew once released as she was fed regularly by tourists,” Collins said. “After multiple relocations, she found Cawsand Bay, where we were able to control the situation better and keep people away.”
After being relocated, Spearmint's desire for human attention only grew, making her situation far more dangerous. The BDMLR hope caught the seal on April 7 and hopes to release her back in the wild when she is fit and healthy.
Collins said in a statement, “This poor seal is an example of what happens when humans feed and habituate a wild animal. The animal is the one who suffers.”
It's important to leave wild animals where they belong, in the wild. It can be dangerous to interact with wild animals, even if they seem friendly. It's a sad world when we have to remind people of that.