Tourists to Yorkshire’s coast have been told to stop taking selfies with seals there amid a surge in visitors attempting to get Insta-friendly snaps with the sea animals.
The mammals are being distressed by increasing numbers of people getting up close for pictures, the Marine Conservation Society has warned.
Dogs off their leads, drones and coastal explorers have all also disturbed and disorientated the seals which come ashore along the East and North Yorkshire coast every year to give birth.
Such interaction was especially dangerous, the charity said, because frightened seals were known to abandon pups who then had no way of making it back to the safety of the sea.
Matt Barnes, a volunteer with the society, said: “Seals are very vulnerable to disturbance, which upsets their routine of feeding and digestion, increases their use of energy, raises their stress levels and means they are more likely to injure themselves.”
He added that a rise in staycation tourists – believed to be down to the coronavirus pandemic – had “manifested in people seeking ‘seal selfies', having uncontrolled dogs off the leads, drones, water craft and coastal explorers disturbing vital haul out sites”.
Both common and grey seal colonies thrive in the area with hundreds hauling themselves onto land along the 90 mile of coastline every summer with Flamborough Head and Robin Hood’s Bay being especially popular with the animals.