Jamie Morton is the NZ Herald's science reporter.

Cheeky seal's antics surprise experts

The seal pup made itself comfortable - to the surprise of marine experts. Photo / supplied
The seal pup made itself comfortable - to the surprise of marine experts. Photo / supplied

Marine experts have shared their surprise at a cheeky Bay of Plenty seal whose couch-surfing antics at a stranger's house has made headlines across the world.

Lucky the fur seal pup - named after its knack for crossing busy Tauranga streets without wearing tyre tracks - has become a media hit since inviting itself into Annette Swoffer's Welcome Bay home and on to her sofa for a lie-down on Sunday night.

The seal was videoed by a shocked Mrs Swoffer resting its head against the arm rest - perhaps worn out from causing more mischief at another house 5km away that day before squeezing through her tiny cat door.

It was the second of three times it has attracted call-outs for Department of Conservation rangers, who have already plonked it back in the sea twice and aren't convinced it won't drop in to someone else's house soon.

By yesterday, the seal had made a splash in newspapers across the country, on Campbell Live and inspired puns by the British media - the Daily Mail matching a picture of the snuggled-up seal with a headline "Pipe and flippers, sir?" and the Huffington Post saying Mrs Swoffer's home won the "seal of approval".

The Bay of Plenty Times' first report on Lucky's home invasion, with a gallery of cute pictures of it reclining on the couch, remains one of the most popular stories on nzherald.co.nz.

"It's been all over the Australian media and there seem to be a lot of reports in German on Google," Mrs Swoffer said yesterday. "I don't know what was less expected to be honest - the seal or the media interest."

Her theory on how the seal came to slide through the cat flap and up her stairs is shared by wildlife expert and Otago University senior lecturer Dr Bruce Robertson.

"It's very weird and bizarre and it does seem like a very odd place for a seal to go," Dr Robertson said.

"When they get on to land, they don't have very good vision as their eyes are suited for the water. Possibly, it's seen a similarly dark cat and followed it through a cat flap and once inside it's made itself at home - that would be the only reason I could see why it would go through the cat flap."

Massey University's Dr Brett Gartrell said seals varied in personality and some could be very curious creatures.

He knew of cases in Napier where the city's Marineland staff had been called to seals at waterfront residences.

"It's common for them to haul themselves up on to the beach. It's very uncommon for them to haul themselves up on to a couch, like this little guy. That's very unusual."

Department of Conservation marine mammal expert Laura Boren described the visit as "very unique".

But seals were agile climbers and it would not have been hard for it to hop on to the couch.

Ms Boren was concerned it should not get used to human surroundings.

"People don't want to be feeding them ... and you don't want to get bitten by one."

- NZ Herald

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