The annual winter arrival of seals along the Hawke's Bay coastline has already seen DoC crews called to clear the beachfront walkway and the War Memorial gardens on Marine Parade of wandering mammals.

It has also led to a strong warning after a recent incident at the sandy beach beside the Napier Port off Hardinge Rd.

DoC officer Tom Barr said he received word a leopard seal had come ashore.

The beach was an annual sunbathing spot for fur and leopard seals and, given the latter's dangerous reputation, signs had been put up to warn people to stay well clear of them if they saw one.


It was the second leopard seal arrival in the Bay this year and Mr Barr went to the beach to check it out.

It had returned to the sea by the time he got there but he was horrified to see that around the spot it had been lying, and beside its tracks back to the water, were footprints.

"Adults footprints and toddlers," he said.

"They had been poking it with sticks."

He said it was fortunate the seal had not reacted. "There are recorded human fatalities - this could have ended very badly. It was just stupid stuff."

About three weeks ago it was a fur seal which came to the fore.

"We had a call from a gardener at the parade gardens.

"He asked if we could please move a seal as it was in the garden he was weeding. It had come up the beach, gone up the steps and found a nice bush to nest in."

Using nets, officers returned it to the beach.

A fortnight ago another fur seal came ashore and had taken up a resting spot on the walk and cycle-way near the Marine Parade boundary.

"It was tired and was sunbathing," Mr Barr said, adding that it posed a risk to people walking the stretch as they would come between it and the sea.

It was a large adult and needed to be herded back to the beach by officers using special boards.

"This is the time of the year they will come ashore and people have to respect them and leave them - call us if they are somewhere they shouldn't be."

Most of the fur seals were just-weaned juveniles now out on their own.

They could tire quickly in big seas and came ashore to rest.

Last weekend Napier woman Trish Coyle and her children, who are training for Waka Ama, were at the inner harbour in Ahuriri and spotted a playful young fur seal as they rowed across to the Waka Hourua Te Matau a Maui.

"He was swimming around for quite a while," she said.