Although seals are marine mammals, they spend a lot of time on land, particularly between June and September. They can sometimes show up in places you might not expect, occasionally following rivers upstream. Rough weather conditions can also encourage them to seek shelter on shore.
DOC Biodiversity Ranger Jaime Quirk says even though people may be concerned, this behavior is normal.
“We receive calls from the public each year from people concerned about a seal they’ve seen. It’s great to be part of a community that cares so much about our wildlife but in most cases, the seal is fit and well,” he says.
“Seals on land sometimes cough or sneeze, and often have weepy eyes. They also enjoy drifting in the surf or lazing on the beach, which are completely natural behaviours. They will return to the sea when they are rested and ready to go.
“It’s also important to remember these are wild animals and shouldn’t be approached. They have sharp teeth and can move quickly if they feel threatened. Keep a distance of at least 20 meters.”