New Zealand couple find trapped seal in hallway for hours

New Zealand couple find trapped seal in hallway for hours

A curious young seal has been returned to the sea after breaking into a New Zealand home, harassing the resident cat, hanging around in the hallway for a couple of hours while the children slept upstairs, and miraculously ruining nothing.

The Ross family of Mt Maunganui were more than a little surprised to find the New Zealand fur seal in their home, which is about 150 m from the shore, on Wednesday morning.

Phil Ross, who happens to be a marine biologist, said he was unfortunate that he was the only one not home at the time.

He said that this is really the only family emergency where it would be useful to have a marine biologist in the house. I missed my time. I really missed my chance to shine. Ross said his wife, Jenn, rose just before 6 am on Wednesday to go to the gym.

She got in the car when something sounded from underneath and shuffled away. She thought it was someone's dog and didn't think too much of it. She returned around 7 am, opening the door to find a cute little seal. It got a bit of a fright and humped its way down the hallway into the spare room. Ross said the seal had managed to make its way through two catflaps to get into the home. He believes it had encountered Coco, the family's territorial cat, outside, just after Jenn left the property, and had likely been inside for an hour.

Coco must have fled around the side of the house, into the catflap, and the seal must have followed it, because the cat would have gone to defend its territory, and obviously the seal wasn't as intimidated as some dogs are. Jenn woke their two children Noah, 12, and Ari, 10, to come and see their new pet. They thought it was cool and pretty exciting but were totally oblivious to the fact that not many of their mates would have seals come to visit them in their houses. The seal spent time in the spare room and on the couch before Jenn managed to get it out of the front door and into the garden. A Department of Conservation ranger showed up at 10 am to take the seal back to the sea after a busy morning of seal-related call-outs.

The family nicknamed Oscar in a long tradition of giving seals that name in the community, proved to be a polite company, Ross said, and thankfully had not defecated inside. I think that would have been pretty terminal for the furniture. Coco the cat had scarpered to the neighbour's house. On returning to its own home, it refused to go downstairs because it was clearly traumatised. Ross said it was not unusual to see young seals roaming about in the area at this time of year, because the young ones were beginning to wean and head out on their own.

Like all teenagers, they don't always make smart decisions. The New Zealand fur seal population is making a comeback and recolonising much of their former range. Seals can move quickly and can cause serious injuries if they feel threatened. They also carry infectious diseases.

The Department of Conservation recommends staying at least 20 metres away, to not make loud noises in their presence and to keep dogs and children out of their way.