Introduction

New Zealand fur seals coming ashore around Northland are generally resting, or are weaned pups learning their way around the marine world.

New Zealand fur seals coming ashore around Northland are generally resting, or are weaned pups learning their way around the marine world.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) continues to receive calls from people concerned about seals, reporting they seem to be hanging around for long periods or appear unwell. 

Fur seals may look as if they’re sick, as their eyes often weep and they may seem lethargic or have poor fur condition. This is all normal and the seals are best left to their own devices, reminds spokesperson Sioux Campbell.

“The seals are most likely just resting and they may be moulting, or are pups discovering their new life at sea. Unless a seal is in danger of a dog attack, there’s no need to intervene and it will return to the sea in its own time.”

Seals can move surprisingly fast on land if they feel cornered or threatened and carry diseases, which can be transferred to humans. Although they look cute, the seals have a nasty bite and can become aggressive very quickly, Mrs Campbell says.

“One was recently reported as lounging in the sea, waving a flipper for ages. While this is endearing and entertaining, it’s also something seals do and it doesn’t mean an invite into the water, or that the seal needs help.”

Since becoming protected, the number of New Zealand fur seals (kekeno) has steadily increased and is now at 15% of what it would have originally been before human contact. They are often seen around Northland at this time of year through the spring. The species is not now considered to be in decline and is not actively managed by DOC. DOC maintains a ‘hands off’ policy, unless seals are under direct threat from dogs. 

If a member of the public considers a seal to be under direct threat from a dog, please phone 0800 DOCHOT (0800 362 468).

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