A holidaymaker was rushed to A&E with serious bites on his hand after he attempted to pat ‘Sammy the Seal’ on the head at a Devon beauty spot.
Mark and Joanne Tarpey had just arrived at the luxury Cary Arms hotel at Babbacombe in Torquay and said they were looking forward to seeing the friendly female grey seal nicknamed ‘Sammy.’
She has become well-known by fishermen, locals and holidaymakers who see her almost daily at the same spot.
They rushed straight out to see the seal on the pier and Mark had his photograph taken. Foolishly as he was so close he then bent down to try to stroke her on the head and Sammy responded by biting his hand, leaving the steps covered in blood.
The couple rushed straight to Torbay Hospital’s emergency department and Mark’s nasty wounds were treated.
Afterwards the couple returned home to Lancashire and contacted DevonLive to warn others of the dangers of approaching Sammy.
The Seal Project conservation charity which monitors seals at Brixham and Babbacombe said: “Unfortunately Sammy has been habituated by human interaction over a sustained period and her natural behaviours have been changed for life.”
Cary Arms assistant operations manager Jack Howell said: “There are a couple of seals that come around every day. This is the first time I’ve ever heard of anybody being bitten.
“Obviously seals are wild animals and we would always advise people not to approach them.”
Joanne shared pictures of the nasty wounds on Mark’s fingers and thumb. She also took a photograph of the seal looking guilty moments after the attack: “This was him just after he’d covered the steps in blood.”
Joanne said: “We’ve just stayed at the Cary Arms. After checking in we walked along the beach and then went to see if we could see the infamous ‘Sammy the seal’.
“Mark had his picture taken on the steps and then foolishly with him being so close tried to stroke him.
“Sammy immediately went for Mark’s hand, we immediately went to A&E. We have now sadly had to abort our holiday and return to Lancashire.”
Earlier this summer a spokesman for The Seal Project said: “Today we were at Babbacombe checking on and replacing our signs which remind people why feeding seals is bad. “e were chatting to some local anglers when ‘Sammy’ appeared.
“Sammy is a mature female (cow) grey seal whom we know well. Unfortunately Sammy has been habituated by human interaction over a sustained period and her natural behaviours have been changed for life.
“Today we observed her identify people on the pier and swim over to see if there was any food for her. This unfortunately, is learnt behaviour and very sad indeed. Grey seals are prolific hunters and recognising humans as a food source increases her risk of harm by entanglement (in anglers hooks and line) and strike injury from boats.
“Please remember and share our core message; Give wildlife space. Do not feed wild seals. Be kind.”