When all seals want is a rest
‘‘Leave young seals alone to rest,’’ is the plea from the Department of Conservation in response to a seasonal spate of calls about ‘‘sick’’ seals on beaches to the DOC emergency hotline.
It is common between July and October for seal pups to come ashore to rest, particularly after a storm.
This is because they have been weaned and are learning to make their own way in the world. They come ashore to rest before they head out to sea again for food, says DOC ranger Wendy Newton.
‘‘Regurgitating, sneezing and coughing are common seal habits, probably to get rid of undigested food and, as they don’t have tear ducts, their weepy eyes are a natural mechanism to protect their eyes.’’
Seals look scrawny because they are learning to hunt and adapt to the big wide world.
While they might look harmless, appearances can be deceiving. Seals are wild animals and will defend territory aggressively. They carry diseases and their teeth can inflict serious injuries.
Ms Newton says to keep at least 20 metres away and not get between the seal and its escape route to the sea. Dog owners are reminded to be vigilant and keep their pets under control. Seals can move surprisingly quickly on land and adult seals are capable of inflicting serious injuries to dogs.
DOC works on a minimal intervention policy, only intervening if the seal is seriously injured, being harassed by dogs, entangled in net or rope or in a dangerous place such as on or near a road. In these situations, DOC rangers will attend and take necessary action.
If you find a seal that is severely injured, entangled in marine debris, or being harassed, call DOC on 0800 362 468.
Let me be: Seal pups are a regular sight in the area at this time of year, and residents are warned to keep their distance and not to worry if a seal appears sick.