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DOC: Give seals space

By Emily Norman

[email protected]

People and pet dogs getting too close to seals at Cape Palliser have sparked a warning from the Department of  Conservation.

Hayden Barrett, acting DOC operations manager for Wairarapa said there had been a series of reports over the Christmas period from concerned members of the public who had seen dogs and people getting too close to the New Zealand fur seal colony there.

In the colony are about 50 seals including young pups between three and 12-months-old who are “very vulnerable to dog attacks”.

One seal was recently reported dead, but when DOC rangers investigated, they could not determine the cause of death.

“It’s essential that dog owners keep their dogs on a leash and under control when there’s a seal on the beach,” Mr Barrett said.

“We remind people that it’s an offence under the Marine Mammals Protection Act to disturb, harass, harm, injure or kill a seal.

“A dog-owner whose dog attacks a seal could face prosecution.”

Anyone charged under the Marine Mammals Act with harassing, disturbing, injuring or killing a seal faces a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment or a fine to a maximum of $250,000.

Other Wairarapa wildlife such as little blue penguins and Caspian terns were also vulnerable to attacks from dogs and cats, according to DOC.

“We encourage people to watch and enjoy our fascinating wildlife but please keep a responsible distance and keep our precious wildlife safe for everyone,” Mr Barrett said.

South Wairarapa District Council have chimed in to the warning too, drilling in the message that all dog owners must ensure their dogs are kept under control at all times.

“Dog owners must take all reasonable steps to ensure that their dogs do not injure, endanger, or cause distress to protected wildlife,” a spokesperson said.

SWDC further encouraged the community to report all dog attacks to Council on 06 306 9611 (24 hours).

To watch seals safely, DOC recommends to stay at least 20m away, to not make loud noises, and to not feed them.

“Seals can and do bite. They have sharp teeth, and incredibly strong jaws which are three times as strong as an average dog.

“They are surprisingly agile on land and can move very quickly if startled.”

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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