Finland: Weak ice forces seals North in search of nesting grounds

The Saimaa ringed seal is extremely endangered. (Yle)
The Saimaa ringed seal is extremely endangered. (Yle)
Unusually poor ice cover has forced large numbers of ringed seals to look for nesting spots in the northernmost reaches of the Bay of Bothnia, between Sweden and Finland.

The far north of the Bay of Bothnia presently offers seals the best nesting conditions in the whole of the Baltic Sea.

Satellite monitoring indicates that this past winter older adults spent time moving along the edge of the ice cover between the narrow region leading into the Bay of Bothnia and its northern reaches. Most juveniles ranged in much more limited areas.

At present, only the far northern parts of the bay have ice cover. Normally, the entire bay is frozen over during the seals’ breeding season in February-March.

A rare sight: Saimaa ringed seal nursing a pup

Meanwhile, spending time at his holiday cottage last week, on the other side of the country near Savonlinna, Tuomo Henttonen spotted a rare sight – a Saimaa seal on the ice nursing her pup.

Any Saimaa ringed seal itself is a rarity. One of the few species of freshwater seals in the world, it is found only in parts of Finland’s Saimaa lake district. Said to be the world’s most endangered seal, there are thought to be only just over 300 of them.

Henttonen spotted the mother-pup pair at a distance of around 100 metres and took a photograph using his binoculars as a telephoto lens.

He told Yle that he is familiar with the mother, who has nested in the area for a number of years.

“The pup was on the ice all day and its mother came and went,” relates Henttonen. “Even though the mother seal is an old friend after so many years close to my cottage, I’ve never managed to see her nursing a pup before. A plump little fellow, it looks to be, maybe around 10 kilos.”

Yle News

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