DOC warns of wandering fur seals and sea lions as 'seal silly season' gets underway

  • 17/06/2024

'Seal silly season' is upon us once again, the Department of Conservation (DOC) says, reminding Kiwis to steer clear of the marine mammals.

Juvenile fur seals and sea lions are often found in unusual locations between June and September, when they begin exploring further afield from their usual habitats.

Kekeno, New Zealand fur seals, are usually found on rocky shores, but youngsters have a natural curiosity that can lead them several kilometres inland, said DOC Marine Science Advisor Dr Jody Weir.

"Young seals, still dependent on their mother’s milk, tend to venture further afield during this period," Dr Weir said.

"It's common to find them on roads, in backyards, or even on living room sofas."

In the 2023 seal silly season one was found in a KFC carpark in Papakura, South Auckland, and another wandered into the Whangarei branch of Bunnings.

DOC said people should stay at least 20m away from kekeno, and take care not to come between them and the shoreline.

They can become aggressive if threatened and should never be touched, handled or fed - which would also a breach of the Marine Mammals Protection Act.

The department only needed to be contacted if the seals are in immediate danger, such as "being on a road, severely injured, or tangled in debris," said Dr Weir.

"Most seals people encounter are healthy, and behaviours like regurgitating, sneezing, coughing, or crying are normal."

Dr Weir said it has been a hard year for New Zealand's fur seals, with more than 1000 dying due to starvation along the Kaikōura coast.

"Although we can't solve the broader issues of climate change and food scarcity overnight, we can all contribute to keeping these fascinating animals safe," Dr Weir said.

People are asked to call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) if they see a seal that is severely injured, being harassed, or in danger.

How You Can Help Protect Seals

  • Watch out for seals on roads
  • Keep dogs at a safe distance and on a leash
  • Ensure children are at a safe distance and under control when watching seals.