A lost seal called Keith who took a wrong turn and swam 100 miles in-land is feared to have perished in the freezing weather after going missing for a month.
The 4ft seal – who is in fact female – has become a local celebrity after she was spotted frolicking in rivers and even trying to hitch a lift on a SURFBOARD.
The animal was even saved from being shot by fuming anglers who complained about her pinching their catches in the River Severn.
But after having no reported sightings of the friendly seal for almost a month wildlife experts fear Keith may have frozen to death in the recent cold snap.
Naturalist Rosemary Winnall, a member of Wyre Forest Study Group, said: “I would certainly like to know where Keith is now, she really endeared herself to the local people.
“She was inquisitive, liked people and entertained them by playing with plastic bottles she found in the water.
“Seals are warm-blooded. Unlike the sea, rivers freeze – that is the concern.
“We had thought that with the snow on the banks it would deter her from lying up and force her down river but the truth is we just don’t know what has happened to her.”
Keith was first spotted last November in the River Severn in Worcestershire and has since made a home for herself in the fish-rich waters.
But not everyone was a fan and in January the Angling Trust sparked outrage when it branded Keith a “marine predator” and tried to apply for a licence so it could hire a marksman to shoot her.
The draconian move came after the organisation received a string of complaints from its members saying Keith had drastically diminished fish stocks.
In response to the death-threat, fans set up Facebook and Twitter accounts to save Keith.
Thousands of people protested against the plan and a huge online campaign – called ‘Save Keith The Seal’ – was launched on Facebook with supporters from around the world.
As a result of the outrage the Angling Trust finally bowed to public pressure and agreed to explore more humane methods to persuade Keith to swim back to the sea.
But following weeks of sub-zero temperatures there are fears Keith may have fallen victim to the unseasonal weather.
Facebook site ‘Keith the Worcestershire seal’ is urging people who have spotted either Keith or her body to contact them.
One member wrote: “It has been a while since anyone posted a sighting of Keith and there are a few of us on here who are concerned.
“We just need to know where Keith is even if its bad news.”
Just last month she was snapped frolicking with paddle boarders further down the river near Gloucester.
Since arriving in-land Keith has been spotted in Bewdley and Stourport-upon-Severn and Gloucester.
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