A bite as bad as its bark

Leopard seal. Picture by Jamie Quirk

A leopard seal has picked Wainui Beach to take a break.

The Department of Conservation says the seal has been at the southern end of the beach and people need to be careful around it.

East Coast biodiversity ranger Jamie Quirk says it is important to remember these are wild animals.

“Leopard seals do sometimes make an appearance on Gisborne beaches at this time of year.

“Although they can look lethargic when they are lying on the beach, they can move very quickly. They are large natural predators — the largest of the species can grow up to 500 kilograms. They do have a strong bite and can be more aggressive than fur seals.”

People should stay at least 20 metres away from the leopard seal and to keep their dogs under control.

“Try not to startle the seal and if you do find yourself closer than expected, keep calm and quietly move out of its space,” said Mr Quirk.

Leopard seals are a protected species, normally found along the edge of the Antarctic pack ice.

An increasing number are visiting New Zealand shores, including one found recently at Mahia and two that spent time in Auckland waters.

“We’re extremely lucky to see this incredible marine mammal on our beach and should treat it with respect,” said Mr Quirk.

“Having one of Antarctica’s carnivores on our doorstep happens very occasionally. It’s a long journey, and while they’re here they deserve to be given space and time to rest.”

A leopard seal has picked Wainui Beach to take a break.

The Department of Conservation says the seal has been at the southern end of the beach and people need to be careful around it.

East Coast biodiversity ranger Jamie Quirk says it is important to remember these are wild animals.

“Leopard seals do sometimes make an appearance on Gisborne beaches at this time of year.

“Although they can look lethargic when they are lying on the beach, they can move very quickly. They are large natural predators — the largest of the species can grow up to 500 kilograms. They do have a strong bite and can be more aggressive than fur seals.”

People should stay at least 20 metres away from the leopard seal and to keep their dogs under control.

“Try not to startle the seal and if you do find yourself closer than expected, keep calm and quietly move out of its space,” said Mr Quirk.

Leopard seals are a protected species, normally found along the edge of the Antarctic pack ice.

An increasing number are visiting New Zealand shores, including one found recently at Mahia and two that spent time in Auckland waters.

“We’re extremely lucky to see this incredible marine mammal on our beach and should treat it with respect,” said Mr Quirk.

“Having one of Antarctica’s carnivores on our doorstep happens very occasionally. It’s a long journey, and while they’re here they deserve to be given space and time to rest.”

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