Saturday, July 13, 2024

DOC prepares for seal ‘silly season’

Don’t be surprised if you see NZ fur seals in some curious places over coming months.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is asking the public to be on the lookout for juvenile pinnipeds (adventurous fur seals, sea lions and seals) that may start appearing in unusual locations, a period often referred to as ‘seal silly season’.

“From June – September we start to see young seals begin to explore their environment, often showing up in unexpected places,” says DOC Marine Science Advisor, Dr Jody Weir.

Kekeno, or New Zealand fur seals, are marine mammals that spend considerable time on land, typically resting but occasionally exploring. Although they are usually found on rocky shores, their natural curiosity sometimes leads them several kilometres inland.

“Young seals, still dependent on their mother’s milk, tend to venture further afield during this period. It’s not uncommon to find them on roads, in backyards, or even on living room sofas,” explains Dr Weir.

She said this year has been particularly challenging for New Zealand’s fur seals, with more than 1,000 deaths due to starvation along the Kaikōura coast.

“Although we can’t solve the broader issues of climate change and food scarcity overnight, we can all contribute to keeping these fascinating animals safe,” Dr Weir said.

Last year, seals were spotted in unexpected places, such as the car park of KFC in Papakura and Bunnings in Whangarei (pictured). In these instances, DOC intervened to relocate the seals safely back to the water.

“Most seals people encounter are healthy, and behaviours like regurgitating, sneezing, coughing, or crying are normal.”

“People should enjoy observing them from a distance and contact DOC only if they are in immediate danger, such as being on a road, severely injured, or tangled in debris,” says Dr Weir.

If you see a seal that is severely injured, being harassed, or in danger, please call:

  • 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).

How You Can Help Protect Seals

  • Watch out for seals on roads.
  • Keep dogs at a safe distance.
  • Educate others on how to behave around wildlife.

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