A seal known as Mrs Vicar due to the white plastic disc that was stuck around her neck has been rescued two and a half years after she was first sighted off the Norfolk coast.
At least three seals have got flying discs caught around their necks in recent years, though the volunteers who rescued Mrs Vicar believe she got into difficulty with a component used in large scale pipework.
Discs can become caught around the marine mammals’ necks, then cut into them as they grow bigger.
Adult grey seal Mrs Vicar, who was finally captured at Horsey Beach on Easter Sunday, has a 7cm deep wound which has become infected.
A vet has cut the disc off at the RSPCA’s East Winch Wildlife Centre near King’s Lynn where Mrs Vicar is recovering.
Alison Charles, manager at RSPCA East Winch, said: “Sadly, we know the seal had the ring around her neck for over two years!
“I’m so grateful she’s now been rescued and we can care for her.
“She is very quiet this morning and her wound is very sore with a bad smell but we are hopeful she will recover.
“We can start giving her the salty baths she needs to help her neck wound recover soon.
“We add two 25kg bags of salt to each bath and she has one bath a day until her neck has begun to granulate.
“This is the healing process when you cannot debride (remove damaged tissue) and stitch a wound.
“It’s so infuriating knowing that this injury could have been prevented.
“All we can do now is hope that Mrs Vicar is strong enough to pull through.
“Even if she makes it through the next few days, we are not out of the woods, and we will be treating her for a number of months.”
Mrs Vicar has been injected with antibiotics and pain relief and allowed to rest.
Peter Ansell, chairman of the Friends of Horsey Seals volunteer group, said members were finally able to capture Mrs Vicar on Sunday.
“Mrs Vicar was so called by us due to the prominent white plastic collar around her neck, which has turned out to be some type of flange possibly used in large scale pipework,” he said.
“This poor animal has had this flange slowly biting deeper into her neck as she grew bigger, finally inflicting a deep and bloody wound around the entire circumference, but we are delighted to have been able to now leave her with the brilliant and dedicated team at East Winch Wildlife Centre, where she will receive first class treatment, and ultimately be returned to the sea.”
The centre has launched a fundraising campaign to help pay for fish to feed the sick, orphaned and injured seals in their care.
The centre cares for more than 150 seals each year and the cost of mackerel to feed them is rising, costing the charity £3,999 for three pallets of mackerel.