Inis Oírr is home to a growing colony of Grey seals (Rón Mór in Irish). They like to sunbathe at low tide in the summer months. Their favorite is spot a 5 minute cycle from the pier on An Charraig (#14 on our guide map).
The Grey seal and the Common (Harbour) seal are both found around the west coast of Ireland, sometimes in the same colony. These seals are both True or Earless seals of the Phocidae family which are more fully adapted to aquatic life than their cousins the Walrus, Sea-lions and Fur seals in the Pinniped clade.
Islanders have had a long and complex history with seals. They were often viewed as the enemy of fishermen, with an annoying habit of snacking on fish caught in nets before they could be hauled aboard.
On the other hand, there is a strong tradition of folklore surrounding seals. Often these tales involve Selkies, mythological creatures capable of changing from their seal to human form by shedding their skin. Selkies were made famous in the Oscar nominated Irish animation Song of the Sea (2014 film).
In the Irish tradition the Ó Conghaile (Conneely) family - that's us! - are reputedly descended from the seals. You can read one version of the story in this post. For that reason it was very bad luck for an Ó Conghaile to kill a seal.
Many similar stories have been recorded in the Irish, Scottish, Faroese and Icelandic traditions.
Seals were commercially hunted for their meat and fur in the 18th century and early 19th centuries. This brought many seal species close to extinction. However regulations since the 1950's has allowed them to recover, and certainly our population is growing. Further information on seals and other marine animals can be found on the Irish National Parks and Wildlife site.