A sunbaking seal is possibly the last thing you would expect to see on a stroll through the lush British countryside – but that is exactly what ramblers found on a walk through the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
The fully-grown male seal was spotted at Topcliffe Weir, about 80 kilometres inland from the nearest coast.
He was snapped by amateur local photographer Karen Hargreave who told the Northern Echo she had never seen anything like it before.
“Some friends of ours went for a walk and saw something large in the river. On closer inspection they realised it was a seal,” Ms Hargreave said.
“My husband and I decided to try our luck on Friday morning, and sure enough he was still there, out on the bank. He was an amazing sight.”
The mammal was also spotted by walker Tony Wilson, 48, who said he had mistaken it for a sheep.
“It looked so bizarre. At first I thought it was a sheep but as I got closer I saw he was a great big grey seal,” Mr Wilson told the Telegraph.
“I couldn’t figure out how he’d arrived there but speaking to people in the village later it seems he’d swam all the way from the sea up the river.”
Experts told the Echo the seal most likely became lost and disoriented following salmon along the River Swale.
The local wildlife rescue said there was no reason for the public to be concerned about the seal’s welfare.
Seals forage at the mouths of freshwater rivers and it is not uncommon for them to swim several hundred kilometres upstream in pursuit for food.
“‘If they don’t seem distressed or stranded we would urge people to just leave them, don’t approach them and keep dogs away as they are a wild animal after all,” Ana Cowie, of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, told the Echo.
“They can usually be there for a few days before finding their way back, but they spend a lot of their lives on land so they are usually fine.”
The sighting comes several weeks after an Australian fur seal was spotted sunbaking at Rushcutter’s Bay in Sydney.
The seal, nicknamed Sealvester, died last week on the way to hospital after Taronga Zoo officials noticed it was underweight and in need of medical treatment.