A baby seal seen at the Whitby Inlet a week ago, has now been found dead.

Many people were concerned at the size of the seal when it was first spotted. Apparently mother seals often leave their babies alone for a while whilst they feed at sea. It appears the mother did not return, and so the baby had no milk to survive.

The seal first spotted resting by the roadside on the Inlet in Whitby. Photo by Brady Dyer

A week later, locals noticed the seal on the Camborne walkway on the opposite side of the inlet. It appeared to be unable to move, and very thin.

Several people contacted DOC to ask for help. DOC confirms that several calls were received from concerned members of the public on Thursday 29 and Friday 30 June, about a seal pup, in a variety of locations, basking on shore around James Cook Drive and Pauatahanui Inlet.

The seal, appearing very unwell. Photo by Amanda Trist

They say their rangers checked the reported locations, and searched nearby on three separate occasions over these two days, but could not find the pup.

“We also spoke to callers who made contact through the DOC HOTline and explained that we were aware of the seal, and we checked that it was exhibiting natural behaviour and checked that it did not represent any danger”

“Due to their behaviour, it is not uncommon to receive sightings of seals, and DOC will only respond if the pup or the public are in danger – for example, if the pup was on or near the road, or being harassed by dogs or people” (Colin Giddy, Biodiversity Ranger, DOC Kapiti Wellington).

Given the pup was never seen by a ranger, and no reports of injury or danger were received, DOC’s policy is to let nature take its course.

“Injured seals are rarely able to be treated anyway, due to diseases they carry and are usually euthanised by a trained vet if they cannot recover naturally from their injuries”

New Zealand fur seals/ kekeno are the most common seals in New Zealand, found all around the mainland, island and parts of Australia and their population is growing- it is estimated at around 200,000.

Seals naturally rest on shore – especially rocky warm places. Often fur seals may look in distress, but are really just exhibiting normal behaviour

The following is normal behaviour for kekeno:
-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

People are advised to call the DOC HOTline if they see a kekeno that is:
-Severely injured
-Entangled in marine debris
-Bing harassed by people or dogs.

(Information provided by DOC)

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