Gray seals are remarkably efficient hunters. This experienced diver’s “boyfriend,” however, just wants some underwater cuddles.
And cuddles he receives. The footage shows the dive partner of Ben Burville, an equally renowned diver, going about some one-on-one time with a beautiful gray seal. The marine mammal has clearly taken a liking to her, and the feeling is beyond mutual. You can see the diver’s smile through her mask practically.
And what’s not to love? As the diver says, “Even #wild grey #seals, at home in the cold #NorthSea, sometimes want a #hug,” Burville tweets of his footage. It has since gone viral, amassing hundreds of thousands of views across social media.
According to Storyful and Newsweek, this encounter comes from the Farne Islands off England’s Northumberland coast. Burville is both a pro scuba diver and doctor by profession, and his seal encounters are bringing him considerable attention online.
It’s about time, too, as Burville has been diving among seals for 20 years. In those two decades, he says he’s learned how to approach them in a manner they see as “non-threatening”. Which is good, considering that gray seals are, while adorable, also large predators.
“Are these the same seals that know you Ben, or are all seals just affectionate?” asks Judith of this latest encounter on Twitter
“[I] Very rarely see the same seal,” replies Burville. “They have taught me how to dive with them in a way that they find non-threatening,” he clarifies.
“Beautiful. Wonderful creatures, the puppies of the sea,” adds Rich B. to the sight.
“I have watched this wonderful encounter so many times,” echoes Sally G. “Extraordinary.”
Gray Seal Behavior Continues to Baffle Experts
Let’s face it, nature can be so confusing. Why make large, sometimes deadly predators like black bears and gray seals so damn adorable if we can’t love on them? It’s a constant struggle for us wildlife technicians and Outsiders across the board.
In fact, National Geographic once toted the gray seal species as one of the North Sea’s “most murderous killers.”
Keep in mind, however, that NatGeo is taking in proportion to their prey – which does not include humans.
“Just because they’re cute doesn’t make them less of a predator,” biologist Abbo van Neer told NatGeo at the time. “Yes, it’s bloody. Yes, it’s gruesome. That is just the way nature is.”
Bloody and gruesome? Yes. But mostly for the fish, small mammals, and birds they’re feeding on. Yet seal expert Gill Bell still warns against anyone approaching gray seals – as they should.
“You should never swim over to where they are because that’s when you get issues,” she tells the BBC. “The main concern is that they could misinterpret an action as a supposed threat.”
It’s always best to keep the wilds wild, aye, Outsiders? At least we have adorable footage like Burville’s gray seal encounters to tide us over.