Leopard seal spotted at Tauranga marina (+ video)

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A leopard seal is making waves in Tauranga with visitors to Tauranga Bridge Marina lining up to take photos of the marine mammal.

The seal, whose species was more often spotted in Antarctic waters, has been at the marina since at least Saturday and has been swimming from pier to pier, hauling itself out of the water to rest in the sun.

The Department of Conservation (DoC) had been to the marina and placed a sign and orange cones near the seal warning people to keep their distance but people had still been edging as close as they could to get photos of the unusual visitor.

While at Pier B yesterday, the Bay of Plenty Times saw a constant flow of people coming near the cones to get a glimpse of the animal.

Marina resident Paul Deed said he had seen the seal swimming under Pier B before hauling itself out of the water.

A leopard seal at Tauranga Bridge Marina. Photo/George Novak
A leopard seal at Tauranga Bridge Marina. Photo/George Novak

"It took the seal a couple of goes to get out," he said.

"We've seen regular seals come up around here but not one of these guys."

DoC marine species and threats team science adviser Laura Boren said leopard seals were generally found around Antarctica but it was not uncommon to see them around the New Zealand mainland.

"At Kaikoura, maybe once a year, every other year, you might have a leopard seal haul itself out for a little while.

"You see them at other places around the South Island and sometimes in the North Island."

Scott Kirk 20, Mathew Kirk, 21, Taylor Keoghan, 20 check out the leopard seal at Tauranga Bridge Marina. Photo/George Novak
Scott Kirk 20, Mathew Kirk, 21, Taylor Keoghan, 20 check out the leopard seal at Tauranga Bridge Marina. Photo/George Novak

Ms Boren said sightings of leopard seals were not seasonally dependent and might have more to do with the age of the individual seal.

"If they are not a breeding animal, they can travel quite big distances and haul out to moult."

Ms Boren said leopard seals were one of the top three marine predators with massive heads and powerful jaws.

"They are the ones you want to stay away from."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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