NZ fur seals showing up in unusual places for 'seal silly season'

Source: 1News

"Seal silly season" has come around once again, with adventurous New Zealand fur seals / kekeno coming ashore to rest and explore during the winter months.

A fur seal resting on a rock at Ōhau Point, Kaikōura (file photo).

People enjoying the country’s coastlines have been urged to admire the kekeno from a distance amid reports of the fur seals showing up in unusual areas, the Department of Conservation said in a media release.

Young seals, and male seals of any age, can be spotted between May and September as they leave their breeding colonies to explore and rest.

“It’s that time of year again – seal silly season,” marine science advisor Laura Boren said. “Despite it happening every winter, it takes people by surprise.”

Boren said the seals’ appearance in unexpected places is “exciting” as it indicates the seals are “doing well”, and the time of year “provides for some unique and special encounters with them”.

It includes one intrepid seal travelling from the Hokitika Transfer Station, a “three- or four-kilometre swim from the sea, all the way up to Northland”, Boren said. It comes after two seals had recently moved off the main road in Whangārei.

Meanwhile, a kekeno was rescued in May after becoming entangled in fishing gear in Otago – the third seal to be successfully freed in the area since late April.

Kekeno are marine mammals, but they spend much of their time resting on land and basking in the sun. They are most often found on rocky shores but are curious and exploratory by nature, occasionally travelling up rivers, DOC said.

One adventurous seal in the Waikato ventured 90 kilometres inland to the Hobbiton movie set last October.

Boren reassured people who may become concerned seeing young pups alone, regurgitating, sneezing, coughing, or crying, explaining that it is “all part of their normal behaviour, and they are very resilient animals”.

She advised people to observe them from a safe distance and to call the DOC hotline “only if they are in immediate danger, like relaxing on a road, severely injured, or tangled in debris”.

Dog owners looking to keep kekeno safe during the silly season have been advised to keep their pets on a lead if they are in areas where seals regularly haul out.

“Nearly half of the hotline calls we receive about dogs and wildlife interactions are seals or sea lions being harassed or attacked. This is bound to be a fraction of what occurs.

“It’s a year-round issue but particularly this time of year, when you can come across seals in unexpected places.”

If you see a seal which is severely injured, being harassed, or in obvious danger, call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).