“Leave young seals alone to rest,” is the plea from the Department of Conservation in response to a seasonal spate of calls about “sick” seals on Wellington and Kapiti beaches to the DOC emergency hotline.
It is common between July and October for seal pups to come ashore to rest, particularly after a storm. This is because they have been weaned and are learning to make their own way in the world. They come ashore to rest before they head out to sea again for food.
“Regurgitating, sneezing and coughing are common seal habits, probably to get rid of undigested food and, as they don’t have tear ducts, their weepy eyes are a natural mechanism to protect their eyes”, says DOC ranger Wendy Newton.
Seals look scrawny because they are learning to hunt and adapt to the big wide world.
While they might look cute and harmless, appearances can be deceiving. Seals are wild animals and will defend their territory aggressively. They carry infectious diseases and their teeth can inflict serious injuries. You should keep at least 20 metres away and not get between the seal and its escape route to the sea.
Please be extra vigilant to keep dogs under control. Seals can move surprisingly quickly on land and adult seals are capable of inflicting serious injuries to dogs.
DOC works on a minimal 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 such as 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 find a seal that is severely injured, or entangled in marine debris, or being harassed by people or dogs, call the DOC emergency hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).