Seal dies after fight with dog at Castlecliff Beach

A seal has died after it was involved in a fight with a dog at Castlecliff Beach on Sunday.

Department of Conservation staff are urging beach visitors to be cautious around the coastal area and keep dogs on a leash.

Conservation partnerships manager Jasmine Hessell says the dog owner reported the incident to DOC after she had tried to separate the fighting animals and was bitten by the seal during the incident.

"The woman was in an area where she was permitted to exercise her dog, but it is timely to remind the public that we are sharing the coastline with a variety of wildlife, including protected species "

Seal pups often come ashore between July and October to rest after storms, and when they have been weaned they are learning to make their own way in the world.

"While they might look cute and harmless, appearances can be deceiving. Seals are wild animals and will defend their territory aggressively.

"They carry infectious diseases and their teeth can inflict serious injuries."

"You should keep at least 20 metres away and not get between the seal and its escape route to the sea," Ms Hessell warns.

DOC staff have also been investigating the death of a little blue penguin found at Castlecliff on Sunday and have found no remarkable injuries and no obvious cause of death.

The body has been sent to Massey University for an autopsy.

Penguins are a protected species and are known to come ashore in Wanganui.

DOC wish to remind the public that there are serious consequences for anyone caught harming protected species.

Under the Wildlife and Marine Protection Acts, those who deliberately injure or kill protected or partially protected species can face up to two years imprisonment or a fine of up to $250,000.

Senior DOC ranger Jim Campbell says motorbikes and dogs are the biggest threat to wildlife on our local beaches.

"We are fortunate in Wanganui that we have easy access to expansive beach areas -- we need to make sure our recreation activities do not harm any of our protected species."

- By Liz Wylie of the Wanganui Chronicle

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