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


People are encouraged to drive carefully on the foreshore after a critically injured kekeno/seal pup had to be euthanised on a Christchurch beach.

Date:  09 November 2020

The kekeno pup, found on the beach about 2 km north of Spencer Park on Thursday afternoon, is thought to have been hit by a vehicle. It was in considerable distress with injuries it could not survive.

DOC Mahaanui Operations Manager Andy Thompson says the incident is a reminder for people to always expect seals and other native wildlife on beaches and in coastal areas, and to drive carefully on the sand.

 "Sadly, the kekeno is believed to have been clipped by a vehicle on the beach and sustained a serious head injury.

"The beach is often driven on by people heading out whitebaiting or fishing and there were many tyre tracks visible in the sand around the seal.

"People driving on the beach need to take particular care as seals and other wildlife can blend in with the sand and be hard to see.

"It's also worth slowing down because many whitebaiters head up to the Waimakariri river mouth via this route in the dark."

If a vehicle was involved in the incident, the driver is not known.

At this time of year, it is common for seals and their pups to come ashore and rest. They can turn up in odd places such as an urban river or back yard.

"DOC typically takes a hands off approach to seals as they are resilient animals that generally find their way home given space and time, but in this case, the extent of the seal's injuries meant a ranger needed to intervene," Andy Thompson says. 

"DOC rangers are passionate about protecting New Zealand's native wildlife and they never like having to respond to avoidable incidents like this."

People are advised to stay at least 20 m from any seals they encounter and to keep dogs and children away from them.

Uncontrolled dogs can harass seals, which can lead to injuries to either animal. Dog owners should keep their dogs under effective control when on a beach and put dogs on leads when a seal is present.

Anyone who sees a seal or other native wildlife injured or at risk should call the DOC hotline on 0800 362 46.

Background information

Vehicles are allowed access to the section of beach where the incident happened with a Christchurch City Council permit and must follow all permit rules to protect people and wildlife.

The following are natural behaviours for seals for which people do not need to intervene. People may see seals:

  • looking distressed and scrawny
  • sneezing, coughing and with weepy eyes 
  • drifting in the waves
  • flapping flippers as if stranded
  • immobile
  • fighting
  • pups spending time away from their mothers.

Typically seals need rest, not rescue.

If you believe a seal is in danger, is injured, or is being harassed by people or dogs, call the conservation emergency hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).

People should never attempt to move a seal themselves as the animals can be aggressive when stressed.

It is an offence under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 to disturb, harass, harm, injure or kill a seal. A dog owner whose dog attacks a seal could face prosecution. 


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