Young, injured male elephant seal visits Kaikoura
The elephant seal basking in the grass, and the admiration of passers-by, at Goose Bay, south of Kaikoura, is a young male, not a female.
It was first seen on Friday afternoon a few kilometres north of Goose Bay, near the southern road tunnel on State Highway 1.
Nigel Elson, of Kaikoura, who saw it there, said lots of footprints in the sand indicated it was already attracting visitors before it moved to Goose Bay.
Department of Conservation ranger Mike Morrissey, of Kaikoura, said on Sunday the seal was not in a hurry to get back into the water.
A space around it was taped off to prevent curious onlookers getting too close because it was getting a bit agitated by all the attention.
Morrissey said about 50 cars were parked along the highway at any one time as travellers stopped to look at the unusual visitor.
"It's been a real treat for the public. Some people have turned around and come back to watch it."
He said the seal was a young male, about five or six years old, weighing about two tonnes.
"It has a small injury on its back but it's not significant," he said of what was earlier described as a speargun wound.
Research director of the Kaikoura Ocean Research Institute Jodie Weir said the injury was more likely to have happened in a fight with another young male.
"It also had a lot of wearing and blood around its mouth, which I would say was from a battle with another male, and that could have happened a long way off," said Weir.
She said it was also possible that the seal had come ashore to moult, although there was no sign of that.
Morrissey speculated that the rough seas of the previous few days might have driven the seal ashore.
Weir said four or five elephant seals had been seen along the Kaikoura coast this summer, but it was hard to say what they were doing there.