Seal pup travels 300 miles to pub as manager jokes he must’ve really wanted a pint
A baby seal, believed to be around six to 12 months old, was rescued Sunday, January 2 after travelling hundreds of miles and turning up at the door of a riverside pub in Hanham, Bristol.
John Jefferies, bar manager of The Old Lock and Weir, helped with the rescue efforts for the young pup known as ‘Neoprene’.
The 41-year-old declared that the pub will adopt and sponsor the little seal in the event that he is taken in by a wildlife sanctuary.
Jeffries has jested that Neoprene, who came all the way from Scotland, had perhaps become ‘fed up of Nicola Sturgeon’s lockdown rules’, sneaking over the border for a crafty pint.
Ahead of New Year’s Eve, a time when Hogmanay celebrations would typically draw tourists to Scottish cities, Sturgeon enforced temporary new restrictions on pubs and hospitality venues in a bid to curb the spread of the new omicron variant.
Under these new restrictions, which were rolled out for a three week period, venues serving alcohol may only operate table service, while customers must stay at least 1m apart.
The British Divers Marine Life Rescue Service was called to the scene to care for Neoprene, who had been tagged in Scotland on June 21 – The Old Lock and Weir is about 300 miles away by road from the Scottish border but the journey could have been even longer for the pup depending on where in Scotland he was tagged and the route he travelled.
At just 14.8kg, the seal was found to be dangerously underweight. By comparison, the last time he’d been observed, Neoprene had weighed 30kg, almost twice as much.
Jeffries recalled: “In the morning at around 11.30-ish, I was on the bar and our chef came in and said ‘we have a baby seal on the slipway’. I went to have a look and lo-and-behold there was a baby seal.
“We’re right on the river so there is a slipway outside to get boats in and out the water. He was making his way up to the gate at the top of the slipway and we contacted the RSPCA trying to get advice on what our next steps were.
“We wanted to stop him coming up to the gate because we weren’t sure if he’d fit and there is a road on the other side”.
The workers were advised by experts to try and turn the seal around and return him back to the water. According to Jeffries, the tide was going out at this point and so, when the pup jumped back into the water, he initially ‘seemed to disappear at speed’. However, by around 12.30pm, the pup had returned.
This time around, he’d come right outside the pub, having come up the slipway, straight under the gate.
After contacting the RSPCA, the pub workers were given the details for Marine Rescue and were asked if they could try and contain the seal ready for collection.
Jeffries said: “That is easier said than done in a very busy pub, we had a lot of people outside. Outside the pub just before you go in there is a wall and a fire escape so we managed to herd him gently into that area and put some barrels across, using them to keep him in.
“We added additional water into that area to make it as wet as possible and got some wet towels and put those down and put those on his back”.
Neoprene is now being taken care of at RSCPA West Hatch in Taunton, Somerset and may have to go to a wildlife sanctuary given that he is “not doing that well on his own”.
However, the Old Lock and Weir team intend to adopt and sponsor him should that happen.
Jeffries added: “Marine Rescue took him to West Hatch and they found he was underweight – they know he was 30 kilos when he left Scotland and he had halved that on the journey.
“They were able to identify that he wasn’t doing that well on his own and wasn’t catching the amount of fish he required. They’re feeding him up and seeing how he gets on and they’ll make a decision about whether to release him into the wild.
“He may go to Gweek Seal Sanctuary in Cornwall but we’re hoping he doesn’t. If he does, we’re going to sponsor and adopt him as a pub. We think he may have got fed up pre-New Year’s Eve with Nicola Sturgeon’s lockdown rules and headed down for a pint”.
The pub’s landlord Landlord Daniel Rawlins made a similar joke when speaking to Bristol Live about the seal.
He added: “He was wandering up outside on the road heading towards the pub. He got to the wall and was literally at the front door.
“He was a hit with the customers – he was a bit of a cutie to be honest.
“He’d come a long way for a pint!”