Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


Following phone calls from the public concerned about the welfare of New Zealand fur seals in Wairoa, DOC is reminding the public to leave seals alone to rest.

Date:  28 July 2015

Conservation Services Manager, John Lucas says last week due to rough seas seal pups were resting on the banks of the Wairoa river and Kopu Road was also a popular sleeping spot.

"It is not unusual for seals to be seen at this time of the year. Between August to November newly-weaned fur seal pups and juveniles come ashore, but it's just a resting up period for them before they head out to sea again in search of food."

"The seals may look distressed and scrawny and display signs of sneezing, coughing and have weepy eyes, but that's just natural for them and they really don't need any human intervention. They will return to the water and swim merrily away as soon as they feel up to it."

Mr Lucas says while seals may look harmless and helpless they are wild animals and will defend themselves if they feel threatened. They can be carrying infectious diseases and can cause serious injuries.

DOC has a hands-off policy with seals and will only intervene if a seal is obviously severely injured, is entangled in marine debris or is in a dangerous place such as on or near a public road. In that case, people could call the 24-hour conservation emergency hotline 0800 DOCHOT (0800 362 468).

If you encounter a seal on or near a beach please:

  • leave it to rest
  • always keep dogs on a leash, under control and away from seals
  • ensure you keep small children at a safe distance and under your control when watching seals
  • avoid getting closer than 20 metres
  • do not get between the seal and the sea
  • do not touch or feed the seal.


Jamie Quirk, Ranger Services
Department of Conservation, Gisborne
Phone: +64 6 8690460
Mobile: +64 27 432 4920

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