5 Feb 2024

Sea lion pups emerge in Dunedin: 'Just give them space'

From Checkpoint, 5:50 pm on 5 February 2024
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The sea lion pups are now starting to come out of the woodwork, says DOC. File photo. Photo: Supplied/Nic Vallance

Dog owners and other humans are being asked to tread careful around the ferociously cute sea lion pups which are now emerging from their hidey holes around Dunedin.

Many of the pups are now about a month old, with their mums shuffling them off to beaches to hone their swimming skills. 

Many of them have so far been tucked away, avoiding humans and dogs, but in recent days a pair of newborns have been seen playing on a local road near the ocean together.

Biodiversity Ranger Jim Fyfe has been out tracking and tagging some of the pups and told Checkpoint they were expected upwards of 25 pups this season, which weigh about 15-25 kg at that age.

He said the number one rule to remember was to just give them space.

"And keep your dogs on leads when you're going through the dunes or in forest around the coastline, because you just don't know when you're going to be coming across them."

He said that while a large chunk of them were essentially in suburban Dunedin, it was best if humans kept their distance.

"It's not at all in their interests to be familiar with people. They are going to grow into animals that are 300-400kg and you don't rub them running up and joining your picnic."

Two grown sea lions recently decided they wanted to semi-participate in a regional surf lifesaving event in St Clair, invading a tent and using clothes as a pillow.

Fyfe said it was best to admire them from a distance.

"Expect the unexpected, make sure you've got control of your dogs.

"Do enjoy them, they're just so hard case to watch - they'll be teaming up with other sea lions already. On John Wilson Drive there are two pups and they've been playing together for the last week or so after their mums brought them together." 

Meanwhile, further north, it was revealed last week that nearly 1000 fur seals have 
died along the Kaikōura coastline in the past five months, with warmer sea temperatures and depleted fish stocks blamed for the losses.