A seal protection campaigner has described as "rubbish" claims there are too many grey seals and that they should be culled.

The comments by marine scientist Mark Carter come after a dog was so badly mauled by a seal in a burn on the Ythan estuary north of Newburgh, Aberdeenshire, that he had to be destroyed.

Matthew Will, of Inverugie, near Peterhead, was shooting ducks last Friday evening when his black labrador Fly went into the water to retrieve a bird near a seal colony and was attacked by a seal. His injuries were so severe Mr Will had no option but to shoot the dog to end his suffering.

Following the incident, Audrey Forbes-Clarke, Ythan fishery manager and Udny Trust factor, claimed it was the second attack by a seal on a dog this year. She said: "Seals are very vicious animals and becoming a plague locally." Ms Forbes-Clarke has called for a licensed cull, suggesting that the seals could attack a child.

Mr Carter, of Seal Scotland, a group of organisations and individuals that aims to end the killing of seals, said his heart went out to Mr Will, but denied seals were vicious and firmly rejected the idea they might pose a threat to children, saying he had never heard of a seal attacking a child.

He said: "This is a tragic thing to happen. I'm a dog person and my sympathy goes out to the man and his dog.

"But seals don't normally attack dogs. I would imagine the seal felt threatened.

"We don't have that many grey seals. We should be looking after them, not using words like 'vicious' and 'plague'. The idea that there are too many of them is rubbish."

The UK has 38% of the world's grey seal population and 88% are found in Scotland, with Orkney and the Outer Hebrides having the largest populations.