It was 4am when Napier woman Elsie Thomson heard movement outside her house on The Esplanade - someone was on the property and sneaking about.

Having had an intruder on the property in the past, she got up and turned all the lights on.

"I couldn't see anyone but later in the morning I noticed marks on the glass door," she said.

It was around mid-morning, when she had a couple of neighbours around, that she came face to face with the would-be intruder ... a seal.


"He'd been scratching at the door earlier and wanted to come in - I think he wanted to get warm."

To the amusement of Elsie and her friends, the curious little visitor tried again later as they sat in the lounge of her Westshore home.

Before that they had spotted him sitting on the ledge of her front verandah.

"He was obviously enjoying the sun and was happy warming himself."

However, his balance wasn't the best and he tumbled off at one stage and on to a small hedge below.

It was when the little seal's host went outside that she spotted what he had been up to while attempting to find somewhere comfortable to rest up on land.

"He squashed all my anemones," she said, and also pointed out flattened areas of garden and torn-apart shrubs.

She spotted the seal heading down the back of the section and briefly lost sight of it, although her little dog Alfie tracked it down, but stood back.

Department of Conservation biodiversity supervisor Dan Winchester said that was a wise move.

"Don't get too close - they can bite."

While the seal's temporary hosts had seen the occasional seal on the beachfront, they had never seen one near their property.

But it was not unusual, Winchester said.

Scrambling up the steep seafront, across the road, and on to a property 100m from the sea, was not out of the ordinary for a seal left weary from the heavy seas and seeking somewhere quiet and warm to rest up.

DoC officers had come across seals in everything from woodsheds and garages to pipes, with some having headed up to 1km inland.

"He'll return to the sea when he's rested up - he'll just chill out for a few days," Winchester said, adding that when the storms of winter arrived and hit the shore so did the seals.

He said people coming across them, and who were concerned if they appeared injured or were creating any safety issues, should call the DoC hotline or make contact with the Napier office, which is what Thomson had done.

"And we'll go and take a look."

For now, though, the back garden appears to suit the seal just fine.