Tweets describing police helping a distressed 'sea lion' stranded in a field caused a social media storm with some people asking if the force’s account had been hacked.
Members of the public queried if it was ‘April Fool’s Day’ or a ‘typo’ as officers posted the message on Facebook and Twitter earlier today (Monday, December 22).
The tweet reading 'Officers currently responding to reports of a distressed sea lion in a field #Warrington' sparked confusion, hilarity and concern with some members of the public asking if the twitter account had been hacked.
Officers currently responding to a report of a distressed Sealion in a field #Warrington— Cheshire Police (@cheshirepolice) December 22, 2014
But Cheshire Constabulary responded to the claims by posting a picture of the mammal which was found in a field close to Red Bank Farm Shop in Winwick by a dog walker.
Warrington Central Police tweeted “seal is safe and well – it wanted 2b home for Christmas”.
One twitter user even created the hashtag #prayforthesealionofWarrington as events unfolded at around 10am.
It is not yet clear how the mammal, later identified by Merseyside Police as a seal, became stranded in the field.
Experts believe the grey juvenile seal may have swum from a colony in Hilbre Island, in the Dee Estuary, and got lost.
The seal may have travelled along the River Mersey and then on to Sankey Brook, Newton Brook and Millingford Brook.
Rachael Fraser, a marine mammal medic from British Divers Marine Life Rescue, said: “He seems very stressed, a little dehydrated but he’s okay.
“We’ve got a crate coming and we’ll load him up and then get him down to the Wirral.
“There’s a grey seal colony near Hilbre Island and that’s where we think he’s come from – but he’s got very, very lost!”
Police from Merseyside and Cheshire forces, the RSPCA and animal conservation experts were today trying to move the seal to safety, while trying to work out how it became unstuck.
Farm owner Gary Watkinson said: “It’s quite unusual. We just saw it lying there this morning.
“It’s definitely come up from the brook near here. I tracked its movements and you can see the marks in the soil.”
A woman who lives nearby said she saw the seal when she opened her curtains and assumed it was a pony which had collapsed.
She said: “I thought it must have been hurt. It was right up against next door’s fence. The poor thing must be so scared.”
A Merseyside Police spokesman said this morning: “A report came in from dog walker at 9.39am of the animal on a farmers’ field of Winwick Road in Newton-le-Willows.
“It’s within a field that’s fenced. A wildlife officer is en route - we need to work out who it belongs to, and how it got there.
“There’s no danger to the public, we just want to ensure the animal’s welfare.”
The British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), the voluntary marine animal rescue organisation, is also being consulted.