Smelly seal's early morning visit

By Jamie Morton

An injured seal waddled up to a sleeping couple's Tauranga ranchslider for a noisy wake-up call - the latest in a string of bizarre encounters in the city.

The Department of Conservation says seal sightings have become the "new normal" in the Bay of Plenty, a possible new breeding ground for a species bouncing back in population.

Gerald and Joy McDonnell were in bed when they heard a loud thumping on their harbour-side home at 6.30am on Wednesday.

When Mrs McDonnell went to investigate, she first mistook the large wet animal sprawled across her patio for a dog.

A trail of blood from a wound near its flipper stretched from their patio to the shoreline nearby.

"I put the hose on it and then it just started drinking the water ... I think it must have been dehydrated," Mr McDonnell said.

"So I just grabbed a couple of rubbish bins and managed to push him back toward the water."

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It was the first time the couple had been called upon by a seal, and Mr McDonnell hoped the smelly visitor would be the last.

"At least not at that hour of the morning. I don't want our house to be a seal colony," he said.

It is believed to be the same seal that earlier spent a day relaxing in a pedal boat at a nearby adventure park.

It came after another slippery tourist picked Mt Maunganui's Main Beach for a sunbathing spot, while a few weeks before, a worried onlooker who swam 16m to what appeared to be a stranded dolphin instead found he'd disturbed a hostile seal.

And in December, a fur seal pup that managed to climb through a catflap, up a flight of stairs and on to the couch of a Welcome Bay home made headlines around the world, the UK's Daily Mail matching a picture of the snuggled-up seal with a headline "Pipe and flippers, sir?".

DoC ranger Pete Huggins said the McDonnells' visitor had likely fled from the cold in the South Island, where populations had been rebounding.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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