Seal which attacked walker won't be shot

The attack by the fur seal on the New Plymouth coastal walkway at 8.15am yesterday left a trail of blood. Photo / Glenn Jeffrey
The attack by the fur seal on the New Plymouth coastal walkway at 8.15am yesterday left a trail of blood. Photo / Glenn Jeffrey

New Plymouth District Council will consider putting up signs on a popular New Plymouth walkway following a seal attack on an elderly man, but the animal won't be shot unless it is necessary.

The man suffered serious leg injuries when a seal on the coastal walkway attacked him and bit him around 8am yesterday.

The man was taken to Taranaki Base Hospital with serious leg injuries. He was in a stable condition today.

Department of Conservation and the New Plymouth District Council are meeting this week to discuss what to do about the rogue seal.

DoC spokesman Darryn Ratana said the seal was today basking in the sun on a remote area of beach.

"There's a really large bank on the walkway side but we have set up a cordon and we are monitoring it," he said.

Mr Ratana said he was hopeful DoC staff would not have to intervene and that the seal would head back out to sea on its own.

"He seems pretty relaxed. We hope it will have rested and will go back out on an out-going tide."

He said all seals had the potential to be danger and there was nothing about this particular seal to suggest it was more dangerous than others.

"That's why we advise people to keep a large berth around them."

He said shooting the seal would occur only if a person was in "absolute danger".

New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd said the walkway where the attack occurred was very popular and the connection to nature was what made it special.

He said putting up fences to keep wildlife away would spoil the walkway.

"We'll be looking at education to tell people what to do if they do come in to contact with seals and wildlife," he said.

Signs could be a possibility as long as they weren't intrusive, Mr Judd said.

Belt Road Seaside Holiday Park co-manager Jackie Liedenberg expressed frustration yesterday, saying warnings were not acted on quickly enough.

She said she called the Department of Conservation 15 minutes before the attack after walkers raised concerns about the animal moving up from the beach.

By the time Ms Liedenberg made her next call, the man was already injured.

Ms Liedenberg said today it was plain DoC had made the attack a priority.

"It's definitely positive they're following up on it," she said.

- Herald on Sunday

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