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


DOC rangers are appealing for the public's help after a dog attack on a fur seal at Back Beach last weekend.

Date:  05 December 2017

A member of the public saw owners 'egging their dog on' to attack a female fur seal at New Plymouth's Back Beach on Sunday. The small seal was injured and distressed, leaving a pool of blood on the rocks, but managed to escape into the water.

Department of Conservation Senior Ranger/Supervisor, Biodiversity Callum Lilley said people need to keep their dogs under control (and even better on a leash) when there's a seal or other wildlife on the beach.

"It's disappointing that these people didn't have their dog under control and appeared to be actively encouraging it to attack the seal." Mr Lilley has asked anyone with information about the attack to contact the DOC New Plymouth office.

"We remind people that it's an offence under the Marine Mammals Protection Act to disturb, harass, harm, injure or kill a seal. A dog owner whose dog attacks a seal could face prosecution." Anyone charged under the Marine Mammals Act with harassing, disturbing, injuring or killing a seal faces a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment or a fine to a maximum of $250,000. 

Kekeno/seals are particularly vulnerable at this time of year, young are leaving their mums, mating is happening, and new pups are being born," said Mr Lilley. "People need to respect our marine wildlife, give them space and importantly keep their pets under control."

Mr Lilley said seals are wild animals and can defend their territory aggressively. "Adult seals can move surprisingly quickly on land. While they can look harmless, seals are capable of inflicting injuries to dogs or people."

Summer is also a time when DOC gets phone calls from the public about 'distressed' seals. It's about knowing what is normal behaviour for a seal, said Mr Lilley.

"Seals sneezing, coughing and having weepy eyes, flapping flippers, lying immobile on the beach, or pups spending time away from their mothers, is all completely natural seal behaviour and we don't need to intervene."

It's best to keep at least 20 m away from a seal, leave it an escape route to the sea, don't feed or attempt to touch a seal.

But if you find a seal that is severely injured, entangled in marine debris, in immediate danger (such as on a road) or being harassed by people or dogs, call the DOC 24 hour emergency hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).

Anyone with further information about the dog attack on the seal at Back Beach can call the New Plymouth DOC Office on +64 6 759 0350.


Callum Lilley
Department of Conservation Senior Ranger/Supervisor, Biodiversity
Phone: +64 6 759 0350

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