By David Aspinall
This dramatic seal rescue attempt from a lobster line wrapped around its neck almost resulted in a tragic choking.
Called to a struggling pup off Sandness, Shetland, Jan and Paul Bevington from Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary stepped into action along with the SSPCA.
Locating the embattled animal, an attempt to release the rope from swimming alongside was unsuccessful so boat owner Sean Williamson managed to attach a grappling hook to the noose.
Hauling the seal up the side of the boat, the rescuers battled against frantic thrashing and sharp teeth to cut the rope before they throttled the seal before succeeding after a tense three minutes.
Jan said: “We hauled it in and had no choice but to haul it up to the side of the boat.
“If we tried to do anything in the sea, a fully grown, ferocious, frightened Atlantic grey seal could do a lot of harm.
“Even when it was hauled out of the sea you can see from the video how aggressive it was so we decided to just cut as fast as we could.
“We were concerned about throttling the seal, but we know seals can hold their breath for a long time.
“Our main concern was being able to get to the rope avoiding its snapping teeth, which became even harder once Sean had cut through the initial bit of rope so the seal could move its head more.
“That’s why we put a towel over its head, to keep its mouth away from Pete’s hand as he made the final cut.”
Originally filmed in September 2015 but only just uploaded to the sanctuary’s YouTube channel, the rescue lasted a total of nine hours from the initial call being made to the SSPCA.
Jan said: “The seal was reported by a local creel fisherman Martin Garriock who found it trapped in the rope of one of his lobster creels.
“SSPCA inspector Terresa Jamieson went out with him in his small boat, but they were unable to deal with the situation so they called Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary to see if we could help.
“After doing some research, we contacted Sean who owned a larger boat who agreed to take us out to the scene with Terresa.”
The rescue mission was made more difficult as the length of the rope meant the seal could dive and disappear under the surface and reappear somewhere completely different.
Jan said: “Terresa went into the water in her wet suit to search for the rope so we could hook it and pull the seal in.