Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


DOC is reminding people to leave seals alone to rest.

Date:  31 May 2018

DOC East Coast Operations Manager John Lucas says as winter arrives rangers are already responding to phone calls about seals that have wandered on to sections of State Highway 35 from Pouawa, Turihaua and Tatapouri.

Road signs warning drivers have been in place for a number of years. People are asked to be careful driving in these areas and on state highways, especially at night. Due to seals' exploratory nature they can appear in odd places such as a paddock, roadsides or an inner-city street.

"It is not unusual to see seals at this time of the year. Although, they are more commonly observed from August to November when newly-weaned fur seal pups and juveniles come ashore to rest.

"The seals are not distressed, they don't need any human intervention, and will return to the water when rested and ready to go."

John says while seals may look harmless and helpless they are wild animals and will defend themselves if they feel threatened. They can carry infectious diseases and can cause serious injuries.

DOC has a hands-off policy with seals and will only intervene if a seal is obviously severely injured, is entangled in marine debris or is in a dangerous place such as on or near a public road. In that case, people could call the DOC emergency hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468). 

If you encounter a seal on or near a beach, leave it to rest.

  • Always keep dogs on a leash, under control and away from seals.
  • Ensure you keep small children at a safe distance and under your control when watching seals.
  • Avoid getting closer than 20 metres.
  • Do not get between the seal and the sea.
  • Do not touch or feed the seal.

Background information

New Zealand fur seals once lived and bred right round the coast of New Zealand. But they were hunted for more than 700 years, first by Maori and then from the 1790s by European sealers.

An estimated two million New Zealand fur seal were clubbed to death in the early 1800s to make fur seal hats and coats. Oil from their bodies was also burned in lamps for lighting.

By the 1830s the New Zealand fur seal was close to extinction. Sealing was finally banned in 1894. Since then their numbers have been rising and gradually fur seals have been re-colonising our coastline.

In 1991, almost 100 years after sealing was banned, New Zealand fur seals began breeding again at Cape Palliser, at the very bottom of the North Island.  Since then fur seals have also been gradually recolonising the North Island coast.


Jamie Quirk, DOC Biodiversity Ranger
Phone: +64 6 869 0460
Mobile: +64 27 432 4920

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