New Zealand fur seals/kekeno are frequent visitors during the winter months. Seals can turn up in unexpected places, and it is common for them to lie immobile for long periods of time on beaches, rocks and sometimes people’s backyards.
The increase in seals along the coast gives people the opportunity to view seal behaviour they may not previously have seen. This leads to a seasonal surge in seal-related phone calls to the DOC hotline.
Connie Norgate, DOC’s district manager for Hawke’s Bay, says, “Kekeno often look skinny and emaciated, or appear as though they are sick, however this is often not the case.”
“Young pups may be left alone for several days while the mother is away feeding, or they may have been weaned altogether. Large seals may just be looking to rest and will often look as though they are unwell when they may just be sunbathing. This is all a natural part of a seal’s life cycle.”
Connie says it’s important to remember that this behaviour, and the physical condition of the seals themselves, is normal.
Winter is often a time of rest and recuperation. Seals may use the beach and land as a warm and dry refuge from the open ocean. The best thing people can do for the seals is to admire them from a distance and let them be.
DOC aims for minimum intervention when it comes to approaching seals to avoid causing stress to the animal.
If you come across a seal that has been injured, or one that is in danger of being harmed or causing harm, call the DOC hotline on 0800 362 468.
Connie says, “Members of the public are strongly advised to never touch or handle a seal.”
Seals can act unpredictably when put under stress and can carry diseases that are harmful to humans.