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Leopard seal spotted on Wellington's waterfront - DOC warns to stay away

A leopard seal has been spotted lounging on Wellington’s waterfront.

Police were called to Oriental Bay at 7.20am today where a seal had washed up, near Freyberg Pool.

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The seal has drawn a crowd of onlookers near Freyberg Pool. Source: 1 NEWS

The Department of Conservation has been notified, and has ranger at the location to keep an eye on the seal and any people stopping by to have a look.

The leopard seal is easily identified by its long slim body and comparatively large fore-flippers, DOC told 1 NEWS. The animal’s disproportionately large head, massive jaws, impressive teeth and tremendous gape give it a snake-like appearance.

Leopard seals primarily inhabit the Antarctic pack ice, but during autumn and winter animals disperse northward throughout the Southern Ocean, sometimes visiting New Zealand.

The leopard seal was spotted in Wellington's Oriental Bay. Source: 1 NEWS

Auckland and Campbell islands are known to have leopard seals annually and the mainland regularly receives visitors. 

Seals are wild animals and will defend themselves if they feel threatened, DOC warned. While they can look harmless, leopard seals can swivel around very quickly from their resting position to attack and can inflict serious injuries to dogs or people. They also can carry infectious diseases.

DOC also warned people to stay at least 20 metres away, don’t disturb seals by making loud noises or throwing things, keep dogs and children away, don’t feed the seals and never attempt to touch a seal.

It is an offence under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 to disturb, harass, harm, injure or kill a seal. A dog owner whose dog attacks a seal could also face prosecution.

Anyone charged with harassing, disturbing, injuring or killing a seal could face up to two years in prison or a fine of up to $250,000. 

Leopard seal on Wellington waterfront. Source: 1 NEWS