Police rescue seal at start of 'silly season'

A seal spotted on the road at night was rescued by police and transported back to sea. Photo:...
A seal spotted on the road at night was rescued by police and transported back to sea. Photo: Supplied
Police have been involved in the unusual apprehension of a seal found on a road in Lincoln in the dead of night.

At 3am on June 8, police received a report that a seal was on the road, near the Ellesmere Rd and Edward St intersection.

Rolleston police responded and after arriving at the scene, Constable Bryan McQueen’s coat was deployed as a tactical measure.

From there, the seal “cuffed itself” by wriggling down the sleeves in an effort to escape custody.

“It worked out perfectly for us,” McQueen said.

He was unsure how the seal came to be on the road.

“We can only assume it’s come up the water race from Lake Ellesmere.”

Once captured, its release was approved by the Department of Conservation, and the seal was transported to the Estuary, near New Brighton.

But it was an unruly passenger, doing anything it could to let police know its displeasure.

“It wasn’t very happy to be riding with police.

“It was trying to chew up the dash of the police car, and anything else it could sink its teeth into,” McQueen said.

Once at the Estuary, the officers freed the feisty seal from its fluffy cell by carefully cutting open the sleeve of McQueen’s jacket.

“We sacrificed the jacket to keep the wee fella safe, and it was a worthwhile sacrifice.”

The seal’s adventure comes at the start of a period often referred to as ‘seal silly season’.

“From June – September, we start to see young seals begin to explore their environment, often showing up in unexpected places,” DOC marine science advisor Dr Jody Weir said.

Kekeno, or New Zealand fur seals, are marine mammals that spend considerable time on land, typically resting but occasionally exploring. Although they are usually found on rocky shores, their natural curiosity sometimes leads them several kilometres inland.

“Young seals, still dependent on their mother’s milk, tend to venture further afield during this period. It’s common to find them on roads, in backyards, or even on living room sofas,” Weir said.

This year has been particularly challenging for New Zealand’s fur seals, with more than 1000 deaths due to starvation along the Kaikōura coast.

Last year, seals were spotted in unexpected places, such as the car park of KFC in Papakura and Bunnings in Whangarei. In these instances, DOC intervened to relocate the seals safely back to the water.

“Most seals people encounter are healthy, and behaviours like regurgitating, sneezing, coughing, or crying are normal.

“People should enjoy observing them from a distance and contact DOC only if they are in immediate danger, such as being on a road, severely injured, or tangled in debris,” Weir said.

How You Can Help Protect Seals
  • If you see a seal that is severely injured, being harassed, or in danger, please call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468)
  • Watch out for seals on roads
  • Keep dogs at a safe distance
  • Educate others on how to behave around wildlife
  • Never touch, handle, or feed a seal as they can be aggressive if threatened. It is also a breach of the Marine Mammals Protection Act.
  • Maintain a distance of at least 20m from kekeno if possible, and avoid getting between the seal and the sea
  • Give seals space if encountered on or near a beach
  • Always keep dogs on a leash and away from seals
  • Ensure small children are at a safe distance and under control when watching seals