Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)

Assessing seal carcasses potentially subjected to grey seal predation

In order to conduct an objective evaluation of potential ecological effects of grey seal predation on marine mammals, it is essential to establish a broad knowledge base helping in the thorough identification of such cases during post-mortem examination. The aim of this work is to report and discuss outcomes resulting from a retrospective evaluation of harbour (Phoca vitulina) and grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) stranding and necropsy data (n = 3274). In addition, the results are compared to a recent case of definite grey seal predation from Germany as well as reports from other countries. Carcasses potentially subjected to grey seal predation show severe lacerations with a circular pattern leaving a smooth, linear and cut-like wound margin. Large parts of skin and underlying tissue are detached from the body and loss of blubber is common. Occurrence frequencies of encountered lesions are presented and a list of parameters to be used for the assessment of similar cases as well as a complementary decision tree are suggested. With the proposed parameters, categories and tools, a baseline can be built in order to facilitate the standardised recognition of predation cases during post-mortem examinations of seals between groups working with populations across several geographic ranges.

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