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Public Awareness the Best Approach to Avoiding Seal Attacks

Public Awareness the Best Approach to Avoiding Seal Attacks

Thu 05 Jun 2014

Caution and distance are the best ways to avoid seal attacks in New Plymouth’s coastal areas, says New Plymouth District Council and the Department of Conservation.

However, warning symbols about seals will be put on entrance signs to the Coastal Walkway between Port Taranaki and the Wind Wand, and DOC will install temporary warning signs whenever a seal’s presence is a risk to public safety.

These decisions follow a seal’s attack on a man on the Coastal Walkway last Saturday (31 May).

“We’re taking a practical approach that keeps the Coastal Walkway open to the sea but provides more warning to the public about the risk that seals can pose,” says NPDC Manager Parks Mark Bruhn.

“The best defence is for people in our coastal areas to be aware that seals are wild animals that can move quickly over short distances, and they need to be given a very wide berth.

“These warning symbols on signs will alert the public to the potential of seals being in the area, and we encourage friends, family and accommodation outlets to advise visitors about what to do if they do come across a seal on the walkway or anywhere else along our coast.”

Any sightings of seals on the Coastal Walkway should be reported straight away to DOC on 0800 DOCHOT (0800 362 468) and the Council on 06-759 6060.

Seals usually haul-up onto rocks opposite the seal colony on the Nga Motu/Sugar Loaf Islands and to the east of the city. Sightings of seals on the Coastal Walkway in front of the city are not uncommon; however Saturday’s attack was the first that officials can remember occurring in New Plymouth.

Both DOC and NPDC urge dog owners to keep dogs on a leash even on the beach areas in front of the Coastal Walkway as seals and dogs will probably provoke each other when they are in the same area.

“And when DOC has taped-off a section of beach or erected a warning sign because of a basking seal, please respect the warning and stay away from that area,” says DOC Partnership Manager Darryn Ratana.

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