Seal walks into Bunnings in Whangārei on nippy morning

Publish Date
Monday, 31 July 2023, 4:39PM
Ovens and dishwashers were used to barricade the slippery seal inside Bunnings Warehouse in Whangārei. Photo / NZ Herald

Ovens and dishwashers were used to barricade the slippery seal inside Bunnings Warehouse in Whangārei. Photo / NZ Herald

An unlikely customer turned up at a hardware chain in Northland, prompting staff to pull out all the ovens and dishwashers to contain the visitor while expert help arrived.

A juvenile fur seal that was nearly run over by a vehicle on State Highway 1 in Raumanga this morning ended up inside Bunnings Warehouse just as staff opened the gates for deliveries.

Bunnings complex manager Sara Yates thought her staff at Goods Inwards (GI) were joking when they rang to inform her about the seal at about 6.30am today.

When she arrived at the store, the seal was slowly making its way towards the lights inside.

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“While keeping clear from it, we tried a couple of times to barricade it so it didn’t go inside, but we quickly learnt she was a smart one and actually held a bit of weight behind her as a couple of teams tried to use shields to divert her back outside from inside GI and the back wall,” Yates recalled.

She said the seal moved “very fast” and only a couple of times did they have to think about what to do to keep her secure in one area.

Yates said the animal reached inside the store, despite efforts to keep her out, and looked to find somewhere to hide.

“I decided to pull out all of our ovens and dishwashers to act as a wall and keep her from moving any further around the store, keeping herself team and members of the public safe.

“I eventually found the number of the after-hours DoC rangers who very quickly came to the site and removed her safely.”

DoC marine rangers release the seal in the marine reserve at Reotahi. Photo / NZ Herald

She was released at Reotahi where there is a seal colony. It is a marine life reserve.

“She wasn’t at all aggressive, a bit frightened and calmed right down after being barricaded. Proud of the team who acted promptly on my requests as we troubleshooted this very random Monday morning situation,” Yates said.

DoC received a call about 7.30am on 0800 DOC HOT about the seal.

Spokeswoman Abigail Monteith said two rangers went to Bunnings and returned the animal to the marine reserve at Reotahi.

Marine ranger Evan Davies said the juvenile seal appeared in good condition if not a little skinny and that Bunnings did the right thing by immediately calling DOC HOT for assistance.

DoC marine science advisor Laura Boren said reports were flooding in from around the country of adventurous seals turning up in unusual areas.

“It’s that time of year again – seal-silly season. Despite it happening every winter, it takes people by surprise.

“It’s exciting because it really indicates that fur seals are doing well, and this time of year provides for some unique and special encounters with them.”

The juvenile seal slipped in as soon as Bunnings opened this morning. Photo / NZ Herald

Between May and September young seals, and male seals of any age, can be spotted as they leave their breeding colonies to explore and rest. This includes newly weaned pups finding their way in the world.

“We’ve had reports from the West Coast, where a seal turned up at the Hokitika Transfer Station, a three or four-kilometre swim from the sea, all the way up to Northland, where two seals were recently moved off the main road in Whangārei,” Boren said.

Boren said people may feel concerned seeing young pups alone, or seals regurgitating, sneezing, coughing, or crying but it was all part of their normal behaviour.

DoC takes a hands-off approach with seals and will only intervene if the animal is in danger, or in high-traffic urban areas.

One way for people to help keep kekeno (fur seals) safe during this season is to keep dogs under control.

“If you are walking your dog in areas where seals regularly haul out or see a seal on your beach, put your dog on a lead until you are away from the seal,” Boren said.

“Nearly half of the hotline calls we receive about dogs and wildlife interactions are seals or sea lions being harassed or attacked. This is bound to be a fraction of what occurs.”

If you see a seal which is severely injured, being harassed, or in obvious danger, call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).

This article was first published in the NZ Herald/Northern Advocate by Imran Ali & Brodie Stone and is republished here with permission.

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