“Leopard seals do sometimes make an appearance on Gisborne beaches at this time of year,” DOC East Coast Biodiversity Ranger, Jamie Quirk says, “but it’s important to remember that these are wild animals.”
“Although they can look lethargic when they’re lying on the beach, they can move very quickly. They’re large natural predators, and the largest of the species can grow up to 500kg. They do have a strong bite and can be more aggressive than fur seals.”
DOC advises people to stay at least 20 metres away from the leopard seal and to keep their dogs under control.
“Try not to startle the seal. If you do find yourself closer than expected, keep calm and quietly move out of its space.”
Leopard seals are a protected species, normally found along the edge of the Antarctic pack ice. An increasing number are visiting New Zealand shores, including one found recently at Mahia and two who have spent time in Auckland waters.
“We’re extremely lucky to see this incredible marine mammal on our beach and should treat it with respect,” says Jaime Quirk. “Having one of Antarctica’s carnivores on our doorstep happens very occasionally. It’s a long journey, and while they’re here they deserve to be given space and time to rest.”
Gisborne District Council animal control has been notified of the seal for dog control purposes.
If you encounter a seal on or near the beach, please 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
- Don’t get closer than 20 metres
- Do not get between the seal and the sea
- Do not touch or feed the seal.