Date: 31 July 2009
Juvenile seals have started coming ashore on Canterbury beaches, with the first reported sightings of young seals sparking several phone calls to the Department of Conservation’s (DOC) emergency hotline.
Newly weaned juvenile seals leave their mothers between July and October and have to learn to fend for themselves. At this time of the year, recently weaned pups start to disperse and many end up along the Canterbury coastline. They come ashore to rest before they head out to sea again for food. “This is normal seal behaviour, and in most cases the seals are healthy and are best left undisturbed,” says Alan McDonald, biodiversity ranger.
However, such sightings are often a concern for local residents. Many people become worried that the seal pups might be sick, because they’ve found a young seal that looks like it is crying, unhappy or lost. But don’t be fooled by their teary eyes and bedraggled appearance. Weepy eyes are a natural mechanism to protect the eyes, and seals look scrawny because they are learning to hunt and adapt to the big wide world.
Whilst they might look cute and harmless, seals are capable of giving a nasty bite when they feel threatened, so people are advised to keep at least 10 metres away and not get between the seal and the sea. People should also keep their dogs under control.
DOC works on a minimum intervention policy, only intervening if the seal is seriously injured, being harassed by dogs, entangled in something like net or rope or is in a dangerous place like on or near a road. In these situations DOC rangers will attend and take necessary action. Otherwise it is survival of the fittest – natural law.
If you see an injured seal, or one that has wandered inland, report it to DOC on the seven day, 24 hour hotline, 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).
All reports of injured seals will be answered and attended to promptly.