Dorset Seals

Dorset Seals

Common/Harbour seal pup © Julie Hatcher

Discover Dorset's seals

Seals are enigmatic, intelligent marine mammals that are frequently encountered along the Dorset coast.  There are two species of seal resident in UK waters, the grey seal and the common or harbour seal, both of which can be spotted in Dorset. The UK is a hot spot for seals and it often surprises people to learn that nearly 40% of the entire World population of grey seals live around our coast. 

These large marine mammals can sometimes be quite elusive, their rounded heads just popping up out of the water, before disappearing out of sight again.  Whilst they spend much of their time foraging at sea, seals come ashore or ‘haul-out’ on land from time to time simply to rest and for longer periods during their breeding and moulting seasons. 

Grey seals have been recorded all along the Dorset coast from Lyme Regis to Christchurch whilst almost all the common seal sightings have been restricted to Poole Harbour and adjacent waterways.  Our Dorset seal photo identification catalogue has revealed that a few grey seals are regular visitors and a small number of common seals are resident in Dorset.

Record your sighting

If you spot a seal your information and photos can help us get a better understanding of seals in Dorset such as how many are seen, how frequently and their location.  Photos can be compared or added to our Dorset seal photo identification catalogue which allows us to identify individuals and is helping us learn whether seals are returning to the same areas and if any are resident here. We can also share this photo ID catalogue with other recorders to help us learn more about seal movements over a larger area.

Please let us know if you spot a seal in Dorset. You can report your sighting and submit photos using our online reporting form here. We also have a seal identification guide here, that you may find useful.


Alternatively, you can let us know by email:


Code of Conduct

Seals can be nervous and are extremely vulnerable from human disturbance especially when on land.  It is crucial for seals to have periods of rest on land so they can digest their food, something which cannot be done effectively whilst actively foraging at sea.  If you encounter a seal either in the water or hauled out it is important to give them plenty of space.  Please follow this code of conduct (here) which will help you enjoy a memorable experience without causing unnecessary stress to the seal


Worried about a seal's welfare?

If you have any welfare concerns about a seal, please check the advice on the British Divers Marine Life Rescue website (here) or call them on 01825 765546 (office hours) or 07787 433412 (out of hours.)



Meet some of our Dorset Seals


Fiver is a female grey seal named because of the £5 marking on the left side of her neck. She also has a distinctive scar on her nose.  Fiver was the first seal to be added to the Dorset Seal photo ID catalogue and is a regular visitor at Portland Bill.

Fiver the Grey seal © Sarah Hodgson

Fiver the Grey seal © Sarah Hodgson



Bonnemine is a female harbour seal who was rescued as a pup in France and was subsequently released in Mont St Michel bay in 2007.  Bonnemine was fitted with a satellite tag which showed her crossing the Channel to Dorset, arriving in Lyme Bay.  The last transmission from her tag was from Poole Harbour in 2008 where she is still seen today.

Bonnemine © Janet France-Sargeant

Bonnemine © Janet France-Sargeant



Wolf seems to be a very curious juvenile seal and has been witnessed interacting with kayaks, even trying to clamber on board.  Her name comes from the ‘Wolf’ shaped marking on the left side of her neck.  Wolf has turned up at various locations along the Purbeck coast, from Studland to Dancing Ledge.

Wolf © Allen Westerby

Wolf © Allen Westerby


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A female spiny seahorse (Hippocampus guttulatus) shelters is a meadow of common eelgrass (Zostera marina). Photographed in summer (August) in Studland Bay, Dorset, England. British Isles. English Channel. - Alexander Mustard/2020VISION