Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The inland seal of Matamata

The Waikato Times reports on its front page today:
Matamata farmer Nigel Buckley had to rub the sleep from his eyes to make sure he wasn’t seeing things when he stumbled across a young New Zealand fur seal in his paddock. In the dawn light yesterday as he headed to the milking shed, Mr Buckley first thought the seal, which his 2-year-old labrador/retriever cross Sassy gave chase to, was either another dog or a possum.

“But when I got a bit closer I wondered what the heck Sassy was chasing – this thing just turned around and snapped at her and it turned out to be a New Zealand fur seal.”

The seal, 100km from the sea, frightened a paddock full of calves before making its way across the farm, where it took shelter under a tree. About the size of an adult dog and thought to be up to 3 years old, the seal crawled under a disused milk tank, where it took a nap which lasted most of the morning.

Conservation Department staff captured the seal, which was around 90cm long and which weighed an estimated 20kg or more, in a net and released him yesterday at Pauanui, on the Coromandel Peninsula.

It’s thought the seal made its way from the sea, an estimated 100km away, via the Waihou and other rivers and farm drains. The seal was first seen about 1km from a drain. [. . .]

Marine ecologist Kristina Hillock said seals that travelled this far were usually just curious. “It might have been just chasing a fish.”
As you do. Matamata is a much pleasanter town than it was 20 or 30 years ago, and there is the attraction of the excellent Kaimai Cheese Company for lunch in nearby Waharoa, but really if I was a seal it wouldn’t be enough to entice me to swim 100 km up-river from the Firth of Thames.

To give you an idea of how far the seal swam, here's the Waikato Times's map:

My local news is so better than your local news.

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