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Seal Breaks Into Home, Traumatizes Cat and Lounges on Couch

Newsweek 8/19/2022 James Bickerton
[STOCK PHOTO] A New Zealand fur seal sits on the VIP stairs at the Sydney Opera House on July 16, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. This week a fur seal pup managed to break into a private home in New Zealand. © James D. Morgan/GETTY [STOCK PHOTO] A New Zealand fur seal sits on the VIP stairs at the Sydney Opera House on July 16, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. This week a fur seal pup managed to break into a private home in New Zealand.

A New Zealand marine biologist has spoken of his surprise after a fur seal pup entered his house, terrifying his cat, Coco, before being ushered outside and returned to the sea.

Philip Ross lives with his wife, Jenn, and their two children in Mount Maunganui, a suburb of Tauranga on New Zealand's North Island.

Speaking to The Guardian, he explained how his wife came to find the seal pup in their home, 150 meters away from the sea.

On Wednesday, shortly before 6 a.m., Jenn left to go to the gym. After she got in her car "something barked from underneath and shuffled away."

At this point Ross said his wife "thought it was someone's dog" and consequently "didn't really think too much of it."

After returning at 7 a.m. she was shocked to find "a cute little seal" in the house, which "got a bit of a fright and humped its way down the hallway into the spare room."

Ross believes the seal pup went through two cat flaps to enter the property and was inside for about an hour before being found.

He said: "The cat would have gone to defend its territory and obviously the seal wasn't as intimidated as some dogs are, so Coco must have bolted around the side of the house, into the cat flap, and the seal must have followed her."

Jenn woke up their two children, Noah, 12, and Ari, 10, and told them to come and see "their new pet" which they thought was "was cool and pretty exciting."

Ironically, considering his profession, Ross was out at the time and didn't return home until after the seal had been removed.

He commented: "The big joke is that this is really the only family emergency where it would be useful to have a marine biologist in the house. I really missed my time to shine."

The seal initially stayed in the spare room, before moving onto the couch.

Jenn eventually coaxed it out of the house and it was collected by a Department of Conservation ranger at around 10 a.m., who took it back to the sea.

During this time Coco had fled to a neighbor's house and was "clearly pretty traumatized, "refusing to go downstairs for a time after returning home.

Fortunately, the seal didn't cause any damage, or defecate in the house, which Ross admitted "would have been pretty terminal for the furniture."

The marine biologist said he often sees young seals around at this time of the year, when they are starting to wean off their mothers and lead independent lives.

Speaking to Newsweek he explained: "It is really common for young seals to end up on unusual bits of coastline at this time of year. The young ones are starting to get weaned, going out on their own and like most teenagers, can make bad decisions about where they end up.

"We've just had a fairly big storm so quite a few seals are showing up on the beach for some rest and recovery, before heading out to sea again. This particular seal was obviously in good condition so decided to go for an explore over the sand dunes and up into the nearby streets and houses."

Fur seals are loyal animals, usually returning to the same area each year to breed.

Females typically have their first pup when they are between 4 and 6 years old, then go on to have another pup annually until they die.

Pups suckle for their first 300 days or so, during which time the mothers also go on increasingly long foraging trips for food, which can last up to 20 days.

Whilst their mothers are away pups become increasingly independent, and start learning the skills they will need to survive.

In 2021 researchers found leopard seals off the coast of New Zealand were hunting and eating ghost sharks, the first time this behavior has been recorded anywhere in the world.

Whilst they might look docile seals can be dangerous and humans should keep a distance of at least 20 meters, according to New Zealand's Department of Conservation.

In the unlikely event a seal enters your home, Ross warned you should keep your distance and contact the relevant authorities.

He said: "Seals are wild animals with plenty of sharp teeth. You definitely don't want to get too close.

"Jenn, my wife, is very cool-headed in these situations and did the perfect things. Opened the front door and encouraged the seal out of the house and into the garden, shut the gate so it wouldn't end up on the road, and then called the Department of Conservation ranger to come and collect the seal and drop it off in a quite part of the estuary."

Update 8/23/22 03:05 a.m. EDT: This story has been updated with additional quotes from Philip Ross.

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