Blubber neckers gain seal of approval from ranger
An elephant seal has proven a massive drawcard for a crowd of curious onlookers near Kaikoura.
The four-metre long male, which is expected to weigh in the vicinity of two tonnes, reached landfall dangerously close to State Highway 1 at Goose Bay, 16 kilometres south of Kaikoura, and presented a potential traffic hazard as motorists stopped to take in a rare sighting of the giant mammal.
Police and Department of Conservation (DOC) staff erected warning signs and cordoned off the animal, which had a nasty gash in his back.
Onlookers initially ventured too close to the seal but DOC ranger Mike Morrissey praised the public's behaviour since the police tape formed a makeshift barrier.
"Generally people have been excellent about it," he said.
"People are amazed to actually see it."
The seal settled on a grass verge with no apparent interest in budging although his path to the Pacific Ocean has been cleared.
Initial reports suggested the seal may have been shot by a spear gun but Morrissey said the wound was more likely caused as it came ashore.
"It's just some sort of rip. If a speargun went in there, it'd still be stuck in."
Morrissey thought the seal had made a rare foray on land seeking a rest after two weeks of heavy seas in the area.
Volunteers would monitor the seal, thought to be about five years old, until it decided to take the plunge.