A devastating blow has killed off hundreds of seal babies at a Scottish nature reserve.
Winter Storm Arwen — which battered the United Kingdom and Scotland with strong gusts of over 75mph last week — took the lives of over an estimated 800 seal pups at the National Trust for Scotland St Abb’s Head reserve.
The Trust said that it had never before seen damage on such a scale, the BBC reported.
The storm hit at an extremely unfortunate time for the reserve, where it was the “peak of pupping season,” said Ranger Ciaran Hatsell. In its wake, Storm Arwen thus left “a pretty grim scene.”
While the reserve has seen massive seal pup growth over the course of the past decade, the recent damage has likely dealt a lasting blow: While Hatsell said that area pups had recently been counted at over 2,000, he fears that nearly half — or more than 40 percent of them — are now lost.
“The storm that hit was phenomenal and to hit at this time of year is really hard,” he said. “Something on this scale, a single event, I have never seen anything like it.”
Hatsell saw the damage firsthand, in about the goriest way possible.
“To see piles of dead pups in the water — just bodies floating — was really hard to see,” he said.
Other area wildlife also suffered during the storm, according to the National Trust for Scotland.
“Unfortunately it appears we have lost the majority of our seal pups to this storm,” it posted on Facebook, according to the BBC. “This is a risk grey seals take with their breeding strategy, pupping at this time of year when storms are most frequent…But for this kind of phenomenal storm to hit at the peak of pupping is exceptional.”