The seal has been repeatedly fed by the members of the public and has become habituated to human food. It also appears the seal has been caught on a fishing line and has a small hook in the corner of its mouth. Both the feeding and the hook may result in serious health effects, and even result in the untimely death of the seal.
“Fur seals are carnivores, mainly feeding on squid and small fish,” says Marine Science Advisor Laura Boren, “but they are intelligent marine mammals and will easily adjust to the lazy life of being spoon-fed. While they might be cute when they’re small, a full-grown adult seal that begs for food could bowl someone over for their hot chips, potentially causing serious harm.
“Chips and other human food are not a part of their natural diet and can cause numerous health issues aside from the habituation, so we’re asking the public to not feed the seal, and to remind others not to feed it either.”
There are people swimming around the ramp area, and the seal may interact with them as it has come to expect humans feeding it, which could lead to someone being accidentally bitten.
“We’re extremely lucky to have the iconic marine mammals on our back doorstep, but they are wild animals, and we should treat them with the respect they deserve,” says Jamie Quirk, Gisborne Biodiversity Ranger.
“In order to catch and treat this seal, it needs to be on land and not agitated. We’re asking the public to please avoid bothering the seal, and to remind others to do the same.
“We’re practicing social distancing with each other anyway, so keeping 20 metres from this seal should be easy.”
DOC intends to capture the seal and remove the hook, but the efforts to do so have been hindered by the people feeding and otherwise interfering with the seal. The seal must be on land to be caught and given treatment.
If you see the seal on the land area near the ramp call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).