ECOLOGY - Seal simply resting

Beachgoers are warned to let resting seals lie.

ECOLOGY - Seal simply resting
ECOLOGY - Seal simply resting

The sight of a fur seal hauled out to rest on a local beach can generate plenty of interest, but the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is urging people to give these wild animals plenty of space.

NPWS South Coast regional manager, Diane Garrood, said it is natural behaviour for seals to haul out during the cooler winter months, to rest and recover from fishing trips before returning to the sea.

"We receive calls fairly regularly from the public reporting seals hauled out on local beaches and generally, there is nothing to be concerned about unless they are entangled," said Garrood.

"It’s very important, however, that people understand that they need to give all seals a wide berth.

"While the seal may appear to be docile, people must remember that seals are wild animals and will react instinctively to defend themselves, using their very powerful jaws and sharp teeth, if they are threatened.

"Over a 40m distance, seals can outrun most people on sand, so it is important to remain well outside this distance for your own safety.

"In addition, people should avoid getting between the seal and its escape route to the water, and keep all pets, especially dogs, away as they will disturb the seal and may be badly injured or killed if the seal attacks.

"Most of the seals that haul out on beaches along the north coast during the cooler winter months are Australian, NZ or sub-Antarctic fur seals, as well as young leopard seals.

"While most are simply resting from long periods at sea, some may also have injuries. These injuries sometimes look terrible, but in most cases seals recover remarkably well from major injuries if they are given the opportunity to rest and heal their wounds, without human interference.

"If a seal is entangled, obviously injured or distressed, or being harassed, call NPWS, but please give them plenty of space.

"Attempts at capture can cause extreme distress to these animals, as well as putting yourself at risk of being bitten.

"People are also advised that in Australia all seals are protected, and that in NSW fines apply for people interfering, harassing or approaching within 40m of an adult and 80m of a pup seal or sealion," Garrood said.

Photo: (TLiosatos/NPWS) A leopard seal, Hydruyra leptonyx, hauled out on the main beach at Durras on the NSW South Coast, July 2009. Leopard seals are occasional visitors to our beaches and need to come ashore to rest or recover from injuries such as the one seen here on the right shoulder. This is a bite from cookie-cutter shark which grow to about 30cm. This injury, although surely uncomfortable, is not serious. If left alone, this animal will recover quickly from this type of injury. Do not approach seals you may come across on the beach and keep your pets well away.


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