A group of kayakers got an unexpected visitor when they were joined by a lost seal who had found himself almost 100 miles from home in a river – in the Midlands.
The party of paddlers were travelling along the River Severn in Worcestershire when they were joined by the misplaced mammal – nicknamed Keith – who playfully swam alongside them for half an hour.
The harbour seal – which normally live along the coast – had followed the boats in their journey up the river after it got lost while it hunted for fish.
The young pup is understood to have swam from Irish or Welsh seas up the Bristol Channel and passed through several locks in a 75 mile detour for its lunch.
Keith was snapped in the river catching and eating a salmon by Mike Finn, 62, on Saturday afternoon.
He said: “I was cycling with his wife when he saw a group of people standing by the river.
“I managed to squeeze between the trees and get a few pictures, when I dashed down to the river’s edge it was gently bobbing along with the fish and struggling to consume it.
“It was quite an incredible sight and not something you’re ever likely to see in landlocked Worcester.”
Caroline Attwood-Reusser, 53, was among the friends from Wychavon Kayak and Canoe Club who had a close encounter with the seal.
She said: “He was diving under our boats, playing under the waves, doing tumble turns and showing us his spotty belly. He looked very healthy.
“It’s just so exciting, to see something so unusual, especially with the kids, it just blew them away.”
The seal was also spotted the next day tucking into fish nearby by dog-walker Carol Treagus.
Carol added: “It had a big fish in its mouth.
“There were a lot of people stood watching and taking pictures – as it’s not something you usually see.”
Dan Jarvis, an animal care assistant at the National Seal Sanctuary, said it was very rare to see seals so far inland.
He said: “It is likely that the seal has come from Irish or Welsh seas.
“Although it is not unusual for seals to swim upriver – it is highly unusual for them to come this far inland.
“Chances are he has followed fish up the river and with quite strong spring tides this year he has probably come up further than usual.
“Either that or he is a young juvenile who is just inexperienced – either way as long as he has a good feed he shouldn’t be in any danger.
“It also pretty rare for them to get this close and personal with people as they can notoriously be antisocial animals.”
An RSPCA spokesman said: “Seals don’t tend to stay long and will eventually make their own way out.
“There is usually no reason for us to intervene unless the animal is injured, sick or distressed.
“People should just enjoy observing him as he won’t be there long.”