Should a seal have a horn?

Department of Conservation —  17/07/2015

Auckland based Marine Ranger Yuin Khai Foong writes about last week’s call out to check up on an injured marine mammal in Auckland.

As a Marine Ranger I’m often receiving calls about New Zealand fur seals/kekeno, but with one recent call, my curiosity and concern was set alight.

A New Zealand fur seal on a rock with waves breaking behind it. Photo: Paul Little.

King of the Castle—a seal’s favourite game

I jumped into my vehicle as quickly as I could and headed for where the seal was last spotted. When I arrived at the site I walked down the steep path and found the fur seal playing ‘King of the Castle’ on a rock.

Looking at the seal, it was plump and healthy, but there was something different about this one – it had a long silver object, which looked remarkably like soft bait, hanging out of its nose.

I observed the seal for a while, swinging this thing around and, whatever it was stayed there. Concerned that the bait was stuck in its nostril with a fish hook I made the decision to get it to the New Zealand Centre of Conservation Medicine at Auckland Zoo.

After two more trips up and down the hill to get my gear, some members of the public came along and helped me gently persuade the seal into the crate.

The New Zealand fur seal lying down in a crate. Photo: Auckland Zoo.

Persuaded into the tranportation crate

Looking closer at it, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how the bait was attached into the nose.

After two more trips up and down the hill to return my gear, we were ready to take the pup back to my vehicle. We took the walk in three stages before triumphantly setting the crate down and packing all the gear away.

The seal arriving at the New Zealand Centre of Conservation Medicine. Photo: Auckland Zoo.

Arriving at the New Zealand Centre of Conservation Medicine

Then (wouldn’t you know it) two and a half hours after it had originally been seen, and an hour after I had seen it, the soft bait drops out of its nose!

Wondering if there was a fish hook still inside, I proceeded with taking the pup to Auckland Zoo for a check up just to be sure. The awesome team there took a few x-rays but fortunately there was nothing there.

Observing the x-ray of the seal's nose. Photo: Auckland Zoo.

X-ray time

I took the seal straight back to release it back into the wild and a gathering group of kids farewelled it before they declared it “the best day of school holidays – ever”.

While this little one’s story had a pain free and happy ending, it serves as an important reminder for us to dispose of all litter, including fishing gear, responsibly so as to help ensure that marine life is not injured as a result.

The fur seal in it's crate. Photo: Auckland Zoo.

Saying goodbye

Seals are wild animals and are capable of living on land or in the water. They can move remarkably quickly and can get aggressive. If you do see one, the best thing to do is to stay well clear from it; don’t get between it and the water; don’t get between a pup and its mum; and put all dogs on a leash. Definitely don’t try to touch it or hug it.

The Department of Conservation is responsible for all marine mammals in New Zealand.  So if you see an injured seal, one that is in danger of harm, in danger of causing harm or in danger of being harassed by people or dogs call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).

Learn more about New Zealand fur seals and how to keep them safe.

2 responses to Should a seal have a horn?

    Shellie Evans 17/07/2015 at 9:57 am

    Yes, but what about the horn? Is that normal?