Seals released back to the wild at Sutton Bridge, after being reared at RSPCA Norfolk Wildlife Hospital near King’s Lynn

PUBLISHED: 12:13 16 March 2017 | UPDATED: 12:13 16 March 2017

Six seal pups were released into the river at Sutton Bridge, by staff from the RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre. Picture: Ian Burt

Six seal pups were released into the river at Sutton Bridge, by staff from the RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2017

Six seals swam back into the wild in the spring sunshine this week.

Six seal pups were released into the river at Sutton Bridge, by staff from the RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre. Picture: Ian BurtSix seal pups were released into the river at Sutton Bridge, by staff from the RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre. Picture: Ian Burt

The animals had been reared by animal lovers at the RSPCA’s East Winch Wildlife Centre, near King’s Lynn, after being orphaned as young pups.

Named after beers by their carers, all had been found on beaches Norfolk over the last few months.

After months on a fish-rich diet and a thorough health-check, they were deemed ready to be released.

Six seal pups were released into the river at Sutton Bridge, by staff from the RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre. Picture: Ian BurtSix seal pups were released into the river at Sutton Bridge, by staff from the RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre. Picture: Ian Burt

The animals were driven to a remote spot near the Peter Scott lighthouse on the tidal River Nene, downstream from the swing bridge at Sutton Bridge, on Norfolk’s border with Lincolnshire.

From there, they will make their way down the river into The Wash and perhaps even the North Sea, which are between them home to thousands of seals.

Alison Charles, manager at East Winch, said: “It went very well, the weather was lovely and it was flat calm. They were very eager and off they went, they didn’t look back at all.

Six seal pups were released into the river at Sutton Bridge, by staff from the RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre. Picture: Ian BurtSix seal pups were released into the river at Sutton Bridge, by staff from the RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre. Picture: Ian Burt

“They’ll head out to The Wash and onto the sandbanks. We’ve tracked them before and we know that they go out and sit beside adult seals and do really well.”

The seals, which were all born during the breeding season in November and December, were found by members of the public at Blakeney, Scratby, Waxham and Horsey.

They were among 60 which were being cared for by Mrs Charles and her staff at East Winch this winter.

Six seal pups were released into the river at Sutton Bridge, by staff from the RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre. Picture: Ian BurtSix seal pups were released into the river at Sutton Bridge, by staff from the RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre. Picture: Ian Burt

After being given rehydration fluids to pep them up on arrival, the seals went on to a diet of fish soup prepared on the premises, followed by whole fresh mackerel.

Staff give each seal they rear at the centre a name. Mrs Charles said this winter, animals have all been named after beers.

So the Wash colony now includes Tanglefoot, Rolling Rock, Old Devil, Fiddler’s Elbow and Parker’s Piece among its ranks.

Six seal pups were released into the river at Sutton Bridge, by staff from the RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre. Picture: Ian BurtSix seal pups were released into the river at Sutton Bridge, by staff from the RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre. Picture: Ian Burt

The specialist wildlife hospital they leave behind, which opened in 1992, has had a busy winter.

Injured swans have had to be cared for indoors because of bird flu, while the mild winter has also seen more than 200 young hedgehogs who refused to hibernate admitted.

The centre first opened at Docking, during an outbreak of seal disease phocine distemper virus, in 1988. Seal lover Mrs Charles came to work in it for a few months and has remained in the job ever since.

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