Stone-throwing teens may have put a dent in the chances of a potential seal colony setting up permanently at the Clive outflow pipe.
Hawke's Bay Today witnessed and photographed two boys throwing stones at the seals on Wednesday beside the rocks at the end of Richmond Rd.
The stones forced a young seal pup off its onshore rock where it was resting, and out to the outflow pipe about 40m offshore. Once there the boys continued to throw stones in that direction.
Department of Conservation Hawke's Bay community senior ranger Chris Wootton described the teens' behaviour as "stupid" and said DoC would be investigating.
"Our resources only stretch so far so we can't monitor the area 24/7."
Wootton said he had talked to locals at the scene who were very concerned about the wellbeing of the animals.
"They have a lot of care for these seals and don't want to see anything happen to them."
He said even though the boys were teenagers, heavy penalties and prosecution were possible.
Anyone charged with harassing, disturbing, injuring or killing a marine mammal faces a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment or a fine to a maximum of $250,000.
Wootton said the number of New Zealand fur seals coming to the outflow pipe at the end of Richmond Rd had DoC excited.
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"We did expect them to hang around for a little bit when they first started to come in numbers.
"But the fact that they are continuing to visit and continue to return to the same spot is getting us all excited that they could start to form a seal colony in the area."
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With the breeding season looming, Wootton advises people to keep an eye out, especially when walking along the beach or with their dogs.
"With it coming into breeding season soon we are also seeing a few more seals in the area not just down at Clive but along the Hawke's Bay coast," Wootton said.
"So that will mean many seals will be coming closer to shore to have their pups and people just need to be extra vigilant as it can cause them to be more vulnerable and also agitated."
The breeding season takes place from mid-November to mid-January. During this time, females give birth to their pups and then mate.
Dominant bulls put on displays of glaring, posturing and fighting with other males just prior to the breeding season to gain territories.
Wootton said if seals choose to breed out by Clive it could lead to the start of a new seal colony for Hawke's Bay.
The area has been very popular over the past few months and that popularity is continuing to grow.
Wootton said with the help from locals and working with local trusts in the region they are trying to make it a safe place to visit for both seals and people.
"We have been working a lot with locals and local trusts in the area who are all willing to help out because this is something of importance to them and something they want to see stay around and continue to grow."
DoC encourages people to always give wildlife space, and asks people to keep 20m away from seals and especially keep dogs well under control and clear of wildlife in all coastal areas.
Fur seals on land are normally just resting and need no special care. Unless they are injured or causing safety concerns, DoC generally takes a "hands off and leave well alone" approach.
* After publication of this story, one of the boy's mothers responded via a letter (below) to the editor.
The story claiming two boys [one of which is the letter writer's son] threw stones at seals has been blown way out of proportion in every way shape and form.
These are well known boys in the community, they are not troublemakers or thugs. Ask anyone in the community and you will all get the same answer. Well mannered, trustworthy teens.
The threatening comments on social media are disgusting, these teens know right from wrong and would never hurt harmless animals or sea life.
Yes this is a case of he said/they said but these teens are not what the media has portrayed and don't deserve this back lash as they did nothing wrong.
Yes they were throwing stones into the water (roughly 10m away), but not at anything besides the concrete moss-covered square. Just one person saw a seal on the rocks, then teens throwing stones. Everything in between is missing. These teens couldn't throw 80m to where the seals are.
These teens deserve an apology as they have done nothing wrong.
[Letter writer's name withheld]