September 11, 2008

Seal Pups Cute but Not so Cuddly

THE Department of Conservation is warning people not to be fooled by the puppy dog eyes of a sea lion or New Zealand fur seal this summer, into thinking they're safe to touch.

They have a nasty bite and run fast, DOC said.

Southlanders share more than 3000km of coastline with many marine mammal species and one the most common visitors are fur seals and New Zealand sea lions.

DOC Stewart Island field centre supervisor Sharon Pasco said these large mammals were regularly seen on the region's rocky shores or lying on sandy beaches.

One of the New Zealand sea lions' favourite hangouts was Waipapa Point, located in the Catlins following the Southern Scenic Route from Invercargill to Balclutha.

"But don't let their sad, woeful eyes fool you into thinking they need a cuddle or saving. It is simply how seals look ... Despite their cuteness these locals have a nasty bite, and can transmit many nasty diseases.

"When we see them they are usually napping, breeding, or looking after their pups," she said.

It was common for mums to leave their pups on the rocks while they head back to sea in search for food.

"However, like any young child, the pups sometimes get bored and wander." Last year rangers had to remove five pups from the city's roads after they had travelled into the estuary and then up the Waihopai or Kingswell streams. For more information go to NZ SEA LIONS

Also known as Hooker's sea lions, are found only in New Zealand.

Their population of about 12,000 is spread between their stronghold in the subantarctic, and the Stewart Island and South Island coasts.

Their favourite hangout is Waipapa Point wKeep at least 20m from all seals both for your safety and to reduce human disturbance to their resting and feeding trips.

If you do see an injured or wandering seal, do not approach it. Call DOC. WAIPAPA POINT The point is where New Zealand's worst shipwreck occurred.

The Waipapa Reef claimed more the 130 lives when the SS Tararua ran aground in 1881.


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