Keep your distance from seals

Warning signs for Coastal Walkway

Last updated 05:00 09/06/2014
DOC service manager Gareth Hopkins
CHARLOTTE CURD/Fairfax NZ
SNAPPY SEAL: DOC service manager Gareth Hopkins on the Coastal Walkway where an 85-year-old man was attacked by a seal. Signs will be put up warning people to give the animals a wide berth.

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Using caution and keeping your distance are the best ways to avoid seal attacks in New Plymouth's coastal areas, the district council and the Department of Conservation say.

Warning symbols about seals will be put on entrance signs to the Coastal Walkway between Port Taranaki and the Wind Wand.

Temporary warning signs would also be installed by DOC whenever a seal's presence was deemed a risk to public safety.

The safety measures come after Arthur Lester, 85, was bitten on the calf when he was out for a morning walk along the Coastal Walkway last Saturday.

The New Plymouth District Council believes that incident was the first for New Plymouth.

Seals usually haul up on to rocks opposite the seal colony on the Nga Motu/Sugar Loaf Islands and to the east of the city.

However, sightings of seals on the Coastal Walkway in front of the city are not uncommon.

Dog owners are urged to keep their dogs on a leash even on the beach areas in front of the Coastal Walkway as seals and dogs would "probably provoke" each other when in the same area.

DOC partnership manager Darryn Ratana said people were asked to stay away whenever DOC had taped off a section of beach or put up a warning sign because of a basking seal.

NPDC parks manager Mark Bruhn said the council was taking a "practical approach" that would keep the Coastal Walkway "open to the sea" but also provide more warning to the public about the risk that seals can pose.

"The best defence is for people in our coastal areas to be aware that seals are wild animals that can move quickly over short distances, and they need to be given a very wide berth."

Bruhn said the warning symbols would alert the public to the possibility of seals in the area.

"We encourage friends, family and accommodation outlets to advise visitors about what to do if they come across a seal on the walkway or anywhere else along the coast."

Seal sightings should be reported to DOC on 0800 362 468 and the council on 06 759 6060.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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