DOLPHINS are being blamed for killing a colony of seal pups in Orkney, after the dismembered bodies of 17 young seals were found on the shoreline at the Bay of Firth.
A pod of bottle-nose dolphins had earlier been seen in the area.
Local Councillor Owen Teirney, who found the dead seal pups, said he believed the deaths were linked to the appearance of the dolphins.
But an expert described video evidence of the dead pups as “inconclusive”.
The bodies are now too decomposed for a definitive post mortem to be carried out.
The carcass of one dolphin was found next to two of the dead seal pups, leading to speculation it may have become stranded while following the animals into shallow water.
Councillor Teirney said it was unlikely that any other large predators were in the area without being spotted by the large number of residents living there.
He believes the dolphins are to blame, adding: “It does look as though the dolphins, on the days they were here, spent a lot of that time desecrating the seal pup population in the bay.”
However, Dr Andrew Brownlow, a veterinary investigations officer at the Scottish Agricultural College in Inverness, remains less convinced.
He said: “Obviously it is something we want to investigate further, but from the evidence so far I can’t call it either way.”
And Ross Flett of Orkney Seal Rescue said: “There were dolphins in that area - and there were no orcas about at the same time.
Bottlenose dolphins have been known to kill porpoises and this may be a trend to also taking to seals. It would be quite worrying if that was the case because the population of common seals have dropped by around 40 percent around Orkney.
“I have seen the video but unless we get fresh carcasses it is impossible to say how they died.
“Orcas tend to leave their seal prey without heads - or with just half a carcass. These seals were headless, so we cannot rule out that it was the work of orcas, maybe at night when they weren’t seen.”