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


DOC is reminding the public to leave seals alone to rest at this time of year.

Date:  02 August 2017

"It's important to keep dogs away from seals. If a dog makes direct contact with a seal there is a potential for the dog to pass on diseases," says Whanganui Senior Ranger Recreation and Historic Jim Campbell.

Jim’s advice is "if a seal looks injured, leave them alone". 

Between August to November it is not unusual for seals to be seen on our shores. Be aware and mindful when walking Castlecliff and South beaches. 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 may have weepy eyes, but it’s just natural for them, and they really don’t need any human intervention. They will return to the water and swim away when they are rested and ready to go.

While seals may look harmless and helpless they are wild animals and will defend themselves if they feel threatened. They can carry infectious diseases and can cause serious injuries. 

"You may also encounter other seal species including the Leopard seal. Leopard seals are very large animals. They could easily crush a person simply by rolling over and can move surprisingly quickly on land. Although they have fairly small teeth, they are capable of penetrating another seal's skin and can inflict a serious wound to humans," says Jim.

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 hotline 0800 DOC HOT (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

Seals are protected under the Marine Mammals Protection Act.

Background information

New Zealand fur seals once lived and bred right round the coast of New Zealand. But they were hunted for more than 700 years.

An estimated two million New Zealand fur seal were clubbed to death in the early 1800s to make fur seal hats and coats. Oil from their bodies was also burned in lamps for lighting.

By the 1830s, the New Zealand fur seal was close to extinction. Sealing was finally banned in 1894.  Since then their numbers have been rising and gradually fur seals have been re-colonising our coastline.

In 1991, almost 100 years after sealing was banned, New Zealand fur seals began breeding again at Cape Palliser, at the very bottom of the North Island. Since then fur seals have also been gradually recolonising the North Island coast.


Sara Treadgold, Senior Ranger Biodiversity, Whanganui
Mobile: +64 27 536 6795

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