Holidaying . . . A leopard seal suns itself on the slipway
at the harbour near Oamaru's Blue Penguin Colony. Photo by
Friends of Bushy Beach
An Otago beach might not be your ideal winter holiday
spot, but about four leopard seals are making the most of the
comparatively balmy conditions away from their Antarctic and
Leopard seals regularly make winter forays to the Otago coast
between June and October but it is the first time they have
been confirmed in such numbers.
Department of Conservation marine ranger Jim Fyfe said
because of the time of the sightings this year, Doc had been
able to determine at least four of the seals were in Otago,
with sightings at Oamaru, Moeraki, Aramoana and Brighton.
The reason for the increased numbers was not known, nor was
the reason for their visits, although other subantarctic
species spend their summers in the food-rich waters of the
Antarctic before moving north to warmer waters so it was
thought the leopard seals were doing the same.
They spent most of their time at sea but did like to spend
time on land, particularly when moulting.
Doc advised the public to keep their distance from the seals.
Although they were not as fast-moving as sea lions, they did
have much bigger teeth and they were capable of doing a lot
of damage, particularly to dogs, Mr Fyfe said.
The seals were long and slender.
They could be identified by their lack of external ears and
their much shorter fore flippers, which meant they
"caterpillared" along the beach.
Often, they looked as if they were ill, with runny noses and
abscesses, but had a remarkable ability to recover, he said.