Whangārei residents stunned to find sunbathing seal

Kim Baker Wilson
Source: 1News

A surprise animal visit in Northland on Wednesday morning has left locals baffled.

Staff at Te Hau Āwhiowhio ō Otangarei Trust, in the Whangārei suburb of Otangarei, arrived to find a sunbathing seal far from water.

The mammal appeared to give the spot an overwhelming seal of approval though and was happy to bask in the morning warmth on top of a tree stump.

Seal in Whangārei

"I walked past the gate and I thought that was the ugliest cat I'd ever seen," trust worker Marcelle Kaipo told 1News.

"And then I looked closer and thought those are funny paws, and then yeah, I was thinking that can't be a seal, we're in Otangarei, there's no ocean."

Kaipo said DOC and the SPCA initially thought worried residents were making a prank call.

He told 1News there is what you could "barely call a creek" nearby so people were trying to figure out how the seal got there.

"I suppose they don't call Otangarei the centre of the universe for nothing, even seals want to be here."

"It might have been an eventful journey for the little seal to get here," he said.

Department of Conservation staff arrived about 90 minutes later, covered the seal with a large sack, and took it away.

But before then the seal attracted a crowd of about 30 people, and DOC staff took the chance to give an education lesson as they took the animal to safety.

The furry find comes just days after DOC said the "seal silly season" was upon us, with reports flooding in of "adventurous seals turning up in usual areas".

DOC said young seals, and males of any age, can be spotted as they leave breeding colonies to explore and rest.

This particular seal was safely inside the health trust's fence and protected from traffic.

But locals are unsure how it got there.

DOC said it takes a "hands-off approach" with seals and staff only intervene if they are in danger or urban areas with lots of traffic.

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

Kaipo said it was a "hilarious" way to start the day, and it put a smile on lots of faces.