News & Advice

The seal deal

Jul 6, 2019 | Pet Health

Every year Raglan has the pleasure of seeing a handful of fur seal pups and adults visit our shores.

Female fur seals birth their pups during December and January, and nurse them until July or August. This means from August onward we see the newly weaned pups on our beaches and in surf breaks or hanging around the wharf looking for an easy meal.

Despite their disarmingly cute big eyes, curious glances and seemingly relaxed nature, they are wild animals. They have large, pointed teeth similar to a dog, and powerful jaws for crushing and chewing their prey. Seals can be unpredictable and will charge and bite if they feel threatened. Their mouths are full of bacteria and bite wounds fester quickly- if you get bitten please seek medical attention ASAP!

Please do not feed them as they become humanized very quickly, and it is an important development stage for pups – if interfered with, they may never learn to hunt for themselves. Keep children and dogs away for their own safety as well as the seals, and keep bystanders to a minimum to ensure the seal doesn’t get 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.

While we receive numerous phone calls from concerned members of the public about the seals welfare, unless they are injured DOC recommends they be left alone. Often they may have low body condition and are still adjusting to hunting for themselves, however please don’t feed them as they may then become reliant on humans for food. DOC will intervene only if seals are in poor condition, in immediate danger, tangled in debris, are blocking roads or being harassed.

Some normal behaviors we don’t intervene with include; sneezing, coughing, weepy eyes, drifting in the waves, flapping flippers as if stranded, fighting or pups that are alone.

If you see a seal and are concerned about its health we advise you to assess its condition from a safe distance, take note of any injuries on its body or flippers and it’s overall body condition, then call and advise the department of conservation (07-858-1000). DOC will contact us if intervention is required.

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