KEITH the seal is alive and well after the mammal was spotted in playful mood on the banks of the river Severn.

A former Worcester resident sparked concerns about Keith's demise when they contacted your Worcester News to say a friend feared he may have killed the iconic seal during a fishing session on the banks of the Severn.

However, those reports seem to be wide of the mark after James Perry, of Kempsey, spotted Keith at about 9.15pm on Wednesday (May 14) while walking in fields off Pixham Ferry Lane, Kempsey, with his wife Victoria and 14-month-old son Rufus.

Mr Perry said: "All the sheep were grazing and then there was an enormous splash and flopping sound. I thought, 'oh no, one of the lambs has fallen in the river' but then I saw this thing emerging from the water and flopping around.

"She was crawling around on the grass and seemed happy enough."

Mr Perry added: "We weren't expecting it, so we kind of stood there a bit weirded out. We felt really privileged to see her - it felt really special."

He also said Keith looked "healthy" and "bulbous" before she returned to the water.

Dilip Sarkar, the Angling Trust's fisheries enforcement manager, said Keith's return was "good news" because it meant it was fine but he still has concerns about her impact on life in the river.

Mr Sarkar added: "There's no hunt for Keith the seal, it's all quite low key. Eighteen months down the line nobody has shot it and nobody has hurt it. Let's start talking about what's best for the river environment, the fragile aquatic system and the seal itself."

There have also been reported sightings in Upton Marina and at Brockweir on the river Wye.

Keith, a grey seal who is actually female despite the name, has developed quite a fanbase since first being spotted in the Severn 18 months ago.

Last November, the Angling Trust was granted a licence by Natural England to catch her and take her back to the sea following concerns she was damaging fish stocks in the river.