The Napier Sailing Club has a new, honorary member. But it isn't your typical patron - instead, one with flippers and teeth.

Napier Sailing Club manager Shelly Te Uki said the leopard seal first appeared in the early hours of Monday morning.

"He pulled himself up to the ramp and got on to our gravel carpark and stayed in that same place until after dark.

"We placed cones and barrier tape around him – so that he could have a good rest, but also so that people wouldn't get too close. He has very big teeth."

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Te Uki said the seal came back on Tuesday afternoon, ready for another big sleep. But was gone again on Wednesday morning.

The club contacted Department of Conservation, which said the seal appeared to be healthy, but looked to be resting and they would expect it to move on in a day or two.

DoC Hawke's Bay senior ranger Chris Wootton said leopard seals were occasional visitors to the district.

Recently there have been leopard seals recorded at Mahia, Auckland and Gisborne, as well as further south.

Wooton said DoC believed this was a younger seal but it was difficult to know for certain. They have been known to grow up to 450kg in weight.

"This individual isn't particularly large, so this could indicate it's a younger animal," he said.

"Leopard seals normally inhabit the Antarctic ice pack but animals disperse during autumn and winter months northwards throughout the Southern Ocean, which is why we occasionally have them visit our Hawke's Bay coast.

"This leopard seal is likely having a winter holiday break and resting up before returning south. We're lucky to see this marine mammal on our coast and we ask people to treat this leopard seal with respect."

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Wooton said leopard seals are generally quite content if left alone, they do have sharp teeth and can be dangerous and unpredictable.

"Leopard seals [like all seals found on our coasts] can react quickly to any perceived threat, even if they are resting on land.

"It's best to give seals plenty of space on our coastlines. Usually, seals are just resting up, so we always advise people to leave them be and, importantly, to keep dogs well controlled and well away from seals.

"DoC will only get involved in seal welfare if the animal is obviously injured or unwell or if the animal presents a safety concern."

A common sense approach to behaviour around seals is to:
• Always keep dogs on a leash, under control, and away from seals
• Ensure you keep small children at a safe distance and under your control when watching seals
• Don't get closer than 20m
• Do not get between the seal and the sea
• Do not touch or feed the seal