New Zealand fur seal/kekeno
Image: Neil Robert Hutton | ©

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


Encounters with seals are becoming more common for visitors to Eastern Bay of Plenty beaches as we move into spring.

Date:  02 September 2020

It is a time for foraging and resting for New Zealand fur seals/kekeno and residents may notice an increase in the number of them resting and sunning themselves on beaches and harbours at this time of year.

July, through to September are known as the ‘hauling out’ months for seals. Weaned pups come ashore to rest, sometimes in what seem like unusual places.

DOC Whakatane and Opotiki offices have been getting more calls about young seals being seen at this time of the year. Generally, the seals are fine and just resting. Although they look very cute with their large puppy dog eyes, they need to be given space and be left to rest.

DOC Biodiversity Ranger Mithuna Sothieson advises:

  • Remember that kekeno are wild animals and under no circumstances should you try to touch them as they will defend their territory aggressively.
  • Do not feed the seal – feeding them fish or human food disrupts their natural diet.
  • You should not get closer than 20 metres to the seal as they can move surprisingly fast on land, have large teeth and can bite with more strength than a large dog.
  • Observe them quietly and do not disturb them.
  • Do not get between the seal and its access to water.
  • Always keep dogs and children away from seals.

Sneezing and coughing are normal kekeno habits, Sothieson says. They may also appear to be crying or have poor fur condition. These are typical behaviours and the seals are best left alone to rest.

However, at times they can turn up in awkward places. Their presence on roads, in backyards or at businesses near streams and harbours can be alarming to the public. While DOC maintains a ‘hands off’ policy unless the seals are in real and immediate danger, severely injured, entangled in marine debris or being harassed by people or dogs; there is also sometimes a need to ‘move’ a seal along, from roads or other busy ‘people areas’.

If this is the case, please call the DOC hotline 0800 362 468..

DOC have experienced staff to deal with marine mammals and will respond appropriately as soon as practicable.


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