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Jan-Åke Hillarp - warden of Måkläppen

Jan-Åke Hillarp is the warden of Måkläppen. He is a biologist specializing in game and works on a daily basis with nature conservation. What he doesn't know about animals and nature on the Falsterbo Peninsula is probably not worth knowing.

Jan-Åke Hillarp

Jan-Åke Hillarp has a long history as a biology teacher, 28 years of which were at one of the schools in Falsterbo. He has been assigned by the National Museum to count the seals on Måkläppen each year, to check rejuvenation and remove dead animals. In addition to that, the Måkläppen Society takes inventory of birds during nesting time, seals year-round and fauna every 8-10 years. “Apart from that it is my duty to see that people behave themselves and to remove (and advise the police of) anyone who does not abide by the Reserve’s rules or enters the forbidden areas” says Jan-Åke. He adds “To protect, care for and show nature and its ecological context is vital. Nature is a gift which we must take care of”.

Photo: Nina Hammarberg

"Nature is a gift which we must take care of"
Jan-Åke Hillarp

As warden, Jan-Åke Hillarp is, to a large extent, alone in being allowed to visit Måkläppen between February and October, when visiting is not permitted. “It is during this period that the seals are breeding and cubbing. They need to be left alone at these times” insists Jan-Åke.

Måkläppen can be visited between November 1st and January 31st. “Then there is a good chance of seeing some of the 100 plus Harbor seals and circa 140 Grey seals that are to be found in these waters. They lie on the beach to rest or take a dive to feast. A visit to Måkläppen allows you to see and experience nature at close hand". 

ATTENTION! Following the storm Babet in October 2023, the County Administrative Board advises against visiting the Nature Reserve Måkläppen. 

Photo: Nina Hammarberg

"A visit to Måkläppen allows you to see and experience nature at close hand"
Åtta veckor gammal knubbsäl

Harbor Seals

The Harbor seals, which can be seen in the harbor at Skåre during the winter, are the same colony that spend the summer on Måkläppen. Harbor seals are our second smallest seals and weigh between 50 and 150 kg. They are clumsy on land but are accomplished swimmers who can dive to depths of 200 meters. The shape of the head is the easiest way to distinguish between the two species of seal found on Måkläppen. Harbor seals have a distinct forehead whilst the crown of a Grey seal’s head merges into the bridge of the nose.

Photo: Jan-Åke Hillarp


Grey Seals

Weighing between 100 and 300 kg and measuring up to 2,5 meters in body length the Grey seal is a mammoth in comparison with the Harbor seal.

While the Harbor seal generally operates within a radius of 30 km from its resting place, the Grey seal swims much longer distances. Grey seals from Måkläppen, equipped with trackers, have swum to Gotland and Kattegatt.

- The oldest Grey seal on Måkläppen lived to be just over 40 years old and the oldest Harbor seal we have found was 45 years old. They are the oldest recorded in Sweden - which is a good sign” in Jan-Åke’s opinion.

To age a dead seal a tooth is taken, decalcified, stained, then sliced so that the rings in the root can be counted.

Photo: Jan-Åke Hillarp

Jan-Åke Hillarp

The sensitive birdlife

Måkläppen is also home to a number of nesting birds including Arctic terns and Little terns. On occasion Avocets have nested here when they have not been able to nest successfully in other places. Often it is foxes that are blamed for the reduction in birdlife. “That is not true”, says Jan-Åke, “it is mainly members of the crow family that take the eggs from the terns and small waders".

However, foxes are behind the disappearance of geese and cormorants and badgers are probably the main reason that eiders no longer nest on Måkläppen. The foxes have also stopped the establishment of mink on Måkläppen, driven away the badgers and meant that martens don’t live for long if they go out on Måkläppen when the foxes have cubs”

Photo: Nina Hammarberg

Ule Nabbe

Recreation on the shoreline

“Especially at the start of the visiting season it is not totally out of the question that you may find amber on the waterline or other bones from bygone times. I have found bones from medieval cows, whalebones and reindeer antlers, which have washed up here”.

Photo: Nina Hammarberg