A seal at Whanganui's fishing platforms is the thinnest resident Lynne Douglas has ever seen.

It's not young, the Castlecliff woman said, just emaciated.

"It's of a concern, not only to the creature itself, but to the situation that may develop if people continue to feed it."

To her knowledge, the animal has been around for at least five days. It looks hungry and appealing and she has seen people feed it fish.

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She worries people or dogs may harm it, or that it may harm a dog or a child who tries to pat it. Seals can move surprisingly fast, she said, and their bites can do a serious injury and spread infectious diseases.

People should keep well away from the animal, and definitely not feed it. Douglas has been in touch with Whanganui senior Department of Conservation ranger Jim Campbell, who said he would take action if necessary.

It was quite common for seals to come into the Whanganui River or up on the Whanganui coast in winter, Douglas said.

She had seen one in the dunes and nearly trod on another at the Morgan St Beach.

"I thought it was a log, but then it rolled over."

Some of those coming ashore in winter were babies, resting while their mothers were fishing. The mothers returned for them. Last winter five babies came ashore and four died, Douglas said. One looked as though it had been attacked.

In another year, a large seal came right across the fishing platforms and on to the road to North Mole.

Being on the road was danger to the seal and a dog ranger herded it back to the water.

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