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Keep Away from Seals at Beaches Message from DOC

( Seals don’t need our help unless they are severely injured, under threat from people or dogs, or entangled in marine debris, the Department of Conservation is reminding people.

This follows a spate of calls to DOC expressing concern about the welfare of seals on beaches in the Wellington region.

“Coughing, sneezing, regurgitation, weepy eyes and immobility are normal behaviours for seals resting on our beaches at this time of year and they should be left alone, says DOC ranger Lisa Clapcott.

“Seal pups are weaned over winter so it’s not unusual for them to look a bit skinny while they’re learning to fend for themselves,” she said.

“They’re just using the beach as we do – to rest and recuperate.”

DOC’s relationship with seals is based on minimum intervention, Ms Clapcott said.

“Seals are very resilient and can recover from some serious injuries without intervention. But very occasionally we need to euthanase a seal due to animal welfare concerns, as was the case with a severely malnourished seal at Waitarere Beach recently.”

Anyone finding a seal that is severely injured, entangled in marine debris, or being harassed by people or dogs should call the DOC HOTline 0800 362 468.

“Seals should be watched and enjoyed quietly from a safe distance. On no account should people go near seals, keeping at least 20 metres away, and not coming between seals and the sea. Seals have a nasty bite and carry infectious diseases such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and salmonella that can be transmitted to humans and are difficult to treat.” Ms Clapcott said.

It is also important for dog owners to keep their dogs under control and well away from seals. Dogs will stress and potentially harm resting or sick seals and there is also a risk to dogs, as seals may attack if they perceive a threat.

Rules for observing seals:

* Observe the seal quietly
* Always keep dogs and small children well away from seals
* Avoid getting nearer than 20 metres to the seal
* Do not touch the seal under any circumstances
* Do not get between the seal and its access to water
* Do not feed the seal.

Contact DOC if you find a seal that is:

* Severely injured
* Entangled in marine debris
* Being harassed by people or dogs.

Call the DOC HOTline 0800 362 468

The following is normal behaviour for seals:

* Regurgitating,sneezing or coughing
* “Crying” – these are natural moisture secretions
* A young seal spending time away from its mother
* Drifting in the waves
* Flapping its flippers in the air as if stranded
* Immobile
* Fighting.

Media Release 20 October 2010 from Department of Conservation.



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