Live seal cam

Welcome to our live streaming seal camera from South Walney Nature Reserve in Cumbria. If you spot anything exciting whilst viewing the seal cam or visiting our nature reserves we'd love to hear from you. Send us your wildlife sightings and experiences in the comments area below or via Facebook and Twitter!


Watching #SealCam

At low tide the seals haul out in large numbers on ‘the spit’ at the end of the reserve. However, they don’t always haul out in the same place so sometimes the camera may not be pointing directly at them. At high tide, most of the seals are likely to be in the water as there is a limited amount of beach exposed at high tide.

The seals will swim off to forage and to travel between areas. This could be close in to the shore around the reserve, in which case you may see them swimming past the camera or it could be in the wider area or across the Irish Sea.

We will try to make sure that the seal cam is directed towards the area where the seals are as much as possible. However, seals like other wildlife are somewhat unpredictable in their distribution and occurrence.

If you can’t see the seals on this occasion please come back and visit the website regularly as the views of the seals are likely to change frequently throughout the day. If the session has timed-out, please refresh the webpage on your browser.

The seal cam is situated on the spit about a mile away from the internet mast at the South Walney Office and it is also very exposed to the elements and the wildlife around it. The internet signal on the reserve can also be patchy.

We apologise for any loss of signal and we will do our best to make sure it is temporary when it does happen. Sometimes refreshing your web browser can help. However, please feel free to report problems to us by email  - thank you and enjoy!

About grey seals at South Walney

South Walney Nature Reserve, on Walney Island, Cumbria is the main haul out site for grey seals in the North West of England. Seals can be spotted in the water around the reserve (usually at high tide), however, there is no access to the protected beaches on the reserve to see the seals. As such, our new webcam provides you with the perfect opportunity to watch these charismatic creatures up close as they haul out to rest.   

Cumbria Wildlife Trust have been monitoring the seals on the protected beaches at South Walney for the past few decades. Historical records show that during the 1980s grey seals were seen most commonly alone or occasionally in pairs around Walney Island. Gradually over time the number of seals using 'the spit' on the island has increased, with a now year-round population of grey seals present on the reserve. In recent years, more than 300 individuals have been recorded to be hauled-out on the reserve.

Breeding success

The colony at South Walney has previously been a non-breeding colony and the seals found here were typically older bulls no longer able to control a harem on the breeding beaches and younger, sexually immature males and females. 

However, in 2015 two fluffy white pups made history as the first grey seal pups to be born on this remote Irish Sea island. Since then the number of pups born has been increasing year-on-year and the island now hosts an active breeding colony!

Grey seal pup at South Walney Nature Reserve. Photo: Lindsey Dickings/NW Evening Mail

If you spot anything interesting happening on the beach, we'd love to know. It is a huge help to us when we go back over the recorded footage. Just comment below with your wildlife sighting including the date and time and, if possible, a screen grab too. Happy seal cam watching!

Please help protect our seals - keep your distance 

Seals are wild animals, they are likely to bite when threatened and they are also incredibly vulnerable to disturbance. It is important to keep a safe distance and keep dogs away.

Dr Emily Baxter, Senior Marine Conservation Officer

There is strictly no public access to the beaches on South Walney Nature Reserve for their safety and yours. Disturbance to seals during the pupping season can cause mothers to abandon their pups and starve. Help us protect our seals by keeping off the beaches on the reserve.

If you see a seal on any beach, watch from a distance and do not approach it. It is more than likely that it is just resting and digesting food before returning to the sea to hunt. Grey seals spend about a third of their time out of the water, it is part of their normal behaviour.

Chasing seals back into the sea is stopping them from what they need to do. Seals are wild animals and capable of swimming and moving on land when they need to. They are not constrained to the bound of a nature reserve, they simply choose to rest there most of the time as there is no public access and so limited disturbance. Healthy seals should be left well alone.

However, if you see a seal that you think may be sick (visibly underweight, coughing, sneezing, mucus coming out of their nose or eyes) or injured, please call the British Divers Marine Life Rescue for advice: 01825 765546 (office hours) or 07787 433412 (out of hours). You will receive further advice over the phone and you may be asked to keep pets and other people away from the animal. They can also call one of their local Marine Mammal Medics for assistance if necessary.

More about grey seals

There are two species of seal that are resident around the UK; Atlantic grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) and harbour or common seals (Phoca vitulina).

Grey seals are the larger and more abundant of the two seal species and are also the largest living carnivore in the UK with males reaching over 300kg in weight while females weigh between 150-200kg. They haul-out in large numbers to rest, breed, get warm and dry, digest food and give birth. They spend approximately two thirds of their time at sea, but return to land for several weeks each year to moult their fur.

Male grey seal at South Walney Nature Reserve. Photo: Lindsey Dickings/NW Evening Mail

Their preferred haul-out locations are near to the sea and, due to their high sensitivity, away from potential human disturbance. They are long-lived animals with males living for over 20 years and females over 30 years. It takes many years for them to reach sexual maturity with males beginning to breed from about 10 years old and females from five years. Approximately 38% of the world’s grey seals breed around the UK forming part of the reproductively isolated North East Atlantic population. Breeding typically occurs on remote uninhabited islands or coasts and a small number in caves. UK grey seals breed in the autumn mainly between September and December.

In the past, grey seals have suffered from severe persecution and their numbers dwindled as a result. Thankfully, grey seal populations have started to increased again due to a ban on shooting during the breeding season and now the largest European population is found in the British Isles.

How you can help protect animals like the grey seals 

You can be part of our vital conservation work for the grey seals at South Walney Nature Reserve by making a donation or joining us as a member.

Although protected, they still suffer from illegal shooting, pollution and disturbance when breeding.

To help seals and other marine wildlife, The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas', where marine wildlife thrives from the depths of the ocean to coastal shallows.

Find out more about visiting South Walney Nature Reserve


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