Baby seals are being “orphaned” by beachgoers who chase them back into the sea, the RSPCA has warned.
The charity said it is caring for so many seal pups in one of its centres that it has become a “seal orphanage”.
Rescuers say the stranded pups have been found alone, dehydrated and exhausted.
It coincides with a report on Monday of an angler allegedly throwing a beer bottle at a seal in Devon.
The RSPCA’s East Winch Wildlife Centre in Norfolk is currently caring for 12 seal pups who have been separated from their mothers too soon.
The society warned well-meaning members of the public not to try pushing baby seals back into the water after finding them on beaches.
The centre’s manager, Alison Charles, said: “Pupping season for the common seals is well under way and we already have a dozen pups to care for at our centre. We are like a seal orphanage at the moment.
“Common seal pups can swim from birth, but sadly some become separated from their mums too soon and that’s how they end up in our care.
“We are becoming increasingly concerned by reports that some members of the public are chasing pups back into the water when they see them resting on the beach.
“This is really concerning because the reason the pup is resting on the beach is likely because they are exhausted due to being so young and still building up their strength.”
She said the pups haul themselves on to the beach to rest, but that people have been chasing them back into the water, making them even more exhausted.
She said they have heard reports of more than half a dozen incidents this year when pups have been chased off beaches in the area.
One of the seals at the centre, which staff have named Cannellini, was rescued from Corton, Suffolk, on 12 July. He had been chased back into the sea the day before at Lowestoft, Suffolk.
“He’s tiny at just 9.35kg and is clearly exhausted, so like all the other pups that arrive dehydrated he has been given an oral rehydration solution every three hours,” said Charles.
“The pups are usually dehydrated because they have been sitting on a beach in the sun or haven't been fed by their mum for a few days.”
The RSPCA said it can take up to five months for the pups to recover from the ordeal.
It warned the public not to approach seals but to monitor them from a safe distance for a 24-hour period to see if the mother returns.