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by Greta Yeoman

Penguins and people have not been the only visitors to Caroline Bay lately, after three leopard seals took a shine to the area.

Forest & Bird South Canterbury representative Kimberley Collins said one seal was first reported on the bay beach on Friday afternoon and had disappeared when she checked the beach on Monday afternoon.

Department of Conservation (Doc) ranger Steve Harraway, who works out of the department’s Geraldine office, said the seal was the third to appear in the past few weeks.

Two other leopard seals had turned up together a fortnight ago but had also disappeared after a short time.

“They quite like the sandy beaches.”

Snoozing . . . The leopard seal at Caroline Bay was unfazed by any foot traffic wandering past on Friday afternoon. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN

The non-breeding seals took this time of the year to come back from sea to mainland New Zealand to find beaches to rest upon and moult, Mr Harraway said.

The department had put up signs on the beach to warn beachgoers of the seals’ presence and remind them to keep at least 20m back from the wild creatures, he said.

While the department could not do “too much” about roping off areas around wildlife, as the seals liked to move, Mr Harraway asked people to ring in if they spotted people harassing wild animals.

Doc guidelines remind people to always stay at least 20m away from seals and to keep children and dogs away, and to not disturb or feed the seals.

Doc’s Geraldine office also covers the Timaru district. The office can be contacted on (03)693-1010.