Rangers use drone to help with Farne Islands seal pup count

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Rangers on the Farne Islands used a drone to help them record the second ever highest number of seal pups on the archipelago.

This year's tally had looked set to break the previous record of 2,295 pups, until bad weather stopped the team from finishing the count, meaning it came in at 2,010.

The group of National Trust rangers live on the islands off the Northumberland Coast between April and December, with the annual seal count taking place over several months from October.

$angers are using drones to help them record the second ever highest number of seal pups on the archipelago  (The National Trust/PA)
$angers are using drones to help them record the second ever highest number of seal pups on the archipelago (Tim Askew/National Trust Images/PA)

Using the drone enabled them to map the locations of newly born seals and their parents without intruding on the pups.

Gwen Potter, countryside manager, National Trust, said: "The team have battled the elements once again to conduct this year's count, which would have been record breaking if we'd had better luck with the weather.

"The drone was effective, helping us to be more flexible and accurate. We're in the hands of nature out here, and our plans for the day are always shaped by the weather."

The previous record was 2,295 pups (Tim Askew/National Trust Images/PA)
The previous record was 2,295 pups (Tim Askew/National Trust Images/PA)

The seal pups are fed for between 16-21 days before they are weaned and then eventually moulting their soft white coats and their dense grey waterproof fur comes through.

Matthew Oates, nature expert at the National Trust, said: "It's fantastic to see the Farne Islands colony thriving again this year. The same can't be said for other colonies on the west coast, some of which suffered a high mortality rate from the late summer storms."