A record number of grey seal pups have been born at Blakeney Point on the north Norfolk coast with a month of pupping still to go, the National Trust said.
Rangers said that 3,068 pups have been born so far this year, surpassing last year’s total of 3,012.
Just 25 pups were born when the colony was first established in 2001, with numbers passing the 1,000 mark for the first time in 2012, 2,000 in 2014 and 3,000 last year.
Rangers who monitor the colony on the coastal spit began this year’s count on November 1 when the first four seal pups were spotted during a routine check.
It is not known why the colony continues to break records, but the National Trust said the absence of predators and the relative remoteness which keeps disturbance to a minimum could be factors.
Leighton Newman, a ranger on Blakeney Point, said: “Whilst it’s very busy on the reserve, with over 7,000 seals currently present, including adults, there’s lots of space to support the expanding numbers.
“We’re also starting to see the seals move into different areas of the reserve, so in addition to the shallow-sloping sandy beach, more are moving into the sheltered sand dunes further inland, which provides additional protection from any bad weather, although it’s been particularly mild again so far this winter.”
There is still another month left of the breeding season at Blakeney Point, with the final pup count to be done in January.
The seal colony is sensitive to any kind of disturbance during the pupping season and the National Trust has asked visitors to keep their distance from the seals, respect fenced off areas and to leave dogs at home.
The trust said the best way to see the seals and enjoy the closest views is by taking a boat trip from Morston Quay, which depart regularly during the pupping season.