June sees the beginning of seal season with the marine animal spending a lot of time on land until September. Often seen sneezing and coughing, this may look concerning however often the seal is getting rid of undigested food such as fish bones.
Although this is normal behaviour, many members of the public may find this alarming says Tauranga Biodiversity Ranger Karl McCarthy. “Each year we receive a lot of calls from concerned members of the public. It’s great that the community cares so much about these mammals but a large number of callers describe normal seal behaviour like drifting in the water or lazing on a beach.”
DOC receives a couple of call a year from members of the public who are concerned that the seals are crying however seals do not have tear ducts. “Weepy eyes are normal moisture secretions. It’s also normal for seals to be immobile – seals are good at lying around and resting!” says McCarthy.
With numerous seal colonies across the country, McCarthy says DOC doesn’t want to discourage genuine calls about seal welfare. The public should call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) if a seal is being harassed by either people or dogs.
DOC recommends staying at least 20m away from seals and to keep any dogs on a leash and under control away from seals. Do not feed or touch the seals either.
“Fur seals are wild animals and will defend their territory aggressively. They can also carry infectious diseases and can inflict serious injury with their teeth”
There are 3 types of seal in New Zealand: fur seals, sea lions and elephant seals with the occasional visit from the Antarctic leopard seals. A group of seals during breeding season is called a harem. Adult males are bulls and females cows with a baby seal called a pup.
Seals, whales and dolphins are protected under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978