Danger lurks behind seal's smile

20:57, Aug 11 2014
Leopard seal
BEAST AT REST: Leopard seals look cute and fuzzy if you are standing 10 metres away, but up close and personal, when disturbed they tend to become big and nasty. 

A lone leopard seal has been spotted in Caroline Bay and the public should stay well away from it.

The non-breeding seal has the Department of Conservation (DOC) concerned about people and dogs approaching it.

Biodiversity ranger Steve Harraway said around this time of the year, the seals usually com came to rest on shore and visit Caroline Bay and other beaches on the Timaru coastline.

"These seals appear docile and just lie there, but they are unpredictable and can move very quickly. Give them space; stay at least 10 metres, which is about a car length away from the seal."

They were not pack animals and usually came ashore alone, he said.

People, especially those with young children or dogs, needed to be aware at all times that seals might be present whenever they were down at the beach. Resting seals were long and thin and could be mistaken for logs.


"Leopard seals usually have weepy eyes, snotty noses and look thin and this is quite normal. The only concern would be if they had a large wound or were entangled in something."

DOC has signs warning the public of the presence of seals but as the seals frequently move the signs may not mark the right spot.

It is an offence under the Marine Mammals Protection Act to disturb or harass seals and if anyone is seen disturbing or hurting them Harraway would like witnesses to get a description and, if possible, a car registration and tell DOC.

If people were concerned about the lack of signage near the seal, they should ring the DOC office in Geraldine.

The Timaru Herald