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New Zealand

Home invasions and road closures: New Zealand is on alert as ‘stupid seal season’ begins | New Zealand

S.Bathing in the streets, breaking through cat butterflies, visiting movie sets, breaking into homes, breathing the heat of backyard spa bath covers – New Zealand’s ‘stupid seal season’ has officially begun and New Zealand has taken over the country. Be prepared for an influx of young marine mammals to explore. Highways, patios, golf courses.

This week, the government issued a formal announcement that the ‘seal season’ has begun. New Zealanders are expected to explore human-dominated spaces and encounter more upturned juvenile creatures. From May to December, adult males and young weanlings of New Zealand’s growing fur seal population leave breeding colonies and head out into the wider world, many for the first time. They’re young, inexperienced, prone to adolescent misbehavior and mishaps, and plunge into the wide world en masse like newly made spring break buddies.

“I call it stupid season for seals,” says Louise Chilvers, a professor of marine wildlife ecology at Massey University. “It’s like being kicked out of your house by a teenager. They have no idea what to do, where to eat, what to do with themselves. They are like this. I’ve been given the freedom to explore a little bit,” she says. “It’s cold, especially in the dead of winter, but there are plenty of warm spots, like the middle of the road for tare seals, where the heat stays in during the day.”

Signs on the road to Arlands Beach in Portobello on the Otago Peninsula in Dunedin, New Zealand
Road to Arlands Beach in Portobello on the Otago Peninsula in Dunedin, New Zealand. Photo: NurPhoto/Getty Images

Last year, a young seal Breaking into a house through a catflap, hung out on the couch and spent hours traumatizing a domestic cat before being brought back to the ocean. In 2021, a seal nicknamed ‘Sammy’ spent more than a week Occupy Hobbiton, a movie set used in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings series, sunbathing and throwing eels around the lake. The state highway is semi-regularly blocked by seals who have chosen it as a relaxation spot. Last year, a lying seal blocked Route 1, and the year before, a pup stopped traffic on Route 25 as parents dropped their kids off at school.

Seal pup invaded New Zealand home
A seal pup relaxing in his New Zealand home last year

The Department of Conservation warned the public that the pups “are exploratory in nature and exhibit strange behavior when pulled ashore” but should be left alone unless in imminent danger. People “may feel anxious when young puppies are alone or see seals vomiting, sneezing, coughing and crying,” the researchers said.

Even though it’s that time of year, the agency is inundated with inquiries about marine life appearing in strange places, said Laura Bollen, the agency’s marine science adviser. Many puppies stick to the beach, but some are more brave and end up going 90km or more from the shore.

“It’s good conservation news that they’re back,” says Bollen, who has made a significant recovery since their numbers were decimated by seal ships from the 1790s to the 1940s. As populations return, “they’re resettling from the south to the north, and they’re beginning to recover most of their former range,” she says. “But essentially what we’re seeing now is that they’re encroaching on our larger populated areas.”

A tourist walks near a sleepy fur seal in Canterbury, South Island.
A sleepy fur seal in Canterbury, South Island. Photo: David C. Tomlinson/Getty Images

New Zealand sea lions are much rarer than seals, as the seed recoversThey have taken over golf courses, encroached on soccer pitches, and in one case closed a busy road section for weeks because a sea lion mother chose the area as a nursery.

As the spring breeding season approaches, marine mammals can also become confused and seek love in the wrong places. In 2021, students’ apartments blowing conch shells attracted love A lustful 350-kg male sea lion destroyed part of the yard and spent part of the day barking out the window, mistaking the noise for a mate’s howling.

Sea lions sunbathing near Dunedin
A sea lion basks in the sun near Dunedin. Photo: Sanka Vidanagama/NurPhoto/Rex/Shutterstock

Both seals and sea lions are legally protected in New Zealand, and rangers generally take a hands-off approach during exploration, only interfering if they are in imminent danger and otherwise If possible, give way to people and ask them to slow down on public roads. Keep your dog on a leash and have fun together from 20 meters away.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jun/17/home-invasions-and-roadblocks-new-zealand-on-alert-as-seal-silly-season-begins Home invasions and road closures: New Zealand is on alert as ‘stupid seal season’ begins | New Zealand

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