Injured leopard seal a danger

The injured leopard seal on Warrnambool's beach. Image: Philip Page
The injured leopard seal on Warrnambool's beach. Image: Philip Page

PEOPLE have been warned to stay clear of a leopard seal resting on south-west beaches.

Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) senior biodiversity officer Mandy Watson said the seal had been seen by members of the public on beaches near Tyrendarra and Warrnambool during the past month.

She said officers had been monitoring the animal’s health and movements.

“DEPI officers have assessed the seal on two occasions and found it is in good health, particularly considering the distance it has travelled,” she said.

“Leopard seals are usually found on the Antarctic ice and on sub-Antarctic islands, young animals disperse north in winter as the pack ice expands and some stragglers appear on the southern Australian coastline every year.”

Ms Watson said the seal had some distinctive round markings on its body caused by cookie cutter sharks that concerned some members of the public.

“This phenomenon has been reported in many of the leopard seals that appear on Victorian and New South Wales beaches,” she said.

“It is important to understand that seals often come to beaches to rest and this is considered normal behaviour. Removing seals for treatment or rehabilitation would preclude them from being returned to the wild due to the risk of disease transmission to wild populations.” 

Ms Watson said leopard seals were known for their ferocious hunting behaviour and people and their dogs should stay well clear of seals on beaches.

“The community is reminded that under the Wildlife (Marine Mammal) Regulations 2009, people need to keep at least 30 metres away and not allow dogs to approach them,” she said.