Seal Breaks Into Marine Biologist's Home

'Missed my time to shine,' says New Zealand's Phil Ross, who wasn't home at time of break-in
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 19, 2022 11:06 AM CDT
Seal Breaks Into Marine Biologist's Home
Stock photo of a seal lounging in New Zealand.   (Getty Images/gatito33)

Phil Ross loves the sea—so much so that he became a marine biologist and moved into a home just 500 feet from the shoreline. That proximity to the ocean brought the New Zealander and his family a surprise visitor on Wednesday morning, when a juvenile fur seal slipped inside their residence and wandered around for a while. Ross, a researcher at the University of Waikato, wasn't home in Mount Maunganui during the incident, which began around 6am, when his wife, Jenn, got up to go the gym, reports the Guardian. He says Jenn heard a bark from under the car, followed by the sound of something moving away from the vehicle; she figured it was just a dog and left. Turns out it was no dog, though: When Jenn got back home an hour or so later and opened the front door, she found herself face to face with a "cute little seal," Phil says.

The nervous interloper "humped its way down the hallway" to a spare room, Phil says, then lounged on the sofa for a bit before Jenn was finally able to lure it back outside through the pet door their cat uses to enter and exit the home. A ranger from the nation's Department of Conservation showed up soon after to retrieve the seal and return it to the shore. The family believes the seal encountered their cat, Coco, soon after Jenn had left for the gym, then followed Coco inside through the cat door. "I really missed my time to shine," Phil laughs, noting how he wasn't home when this all transpired. "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." He also marvels at the journey the seal took during its impromptu adventure.

"It must have been on a bit of a mission," he tells the New Zealand Herald, noting the marine mammal would've had to have worked its way up the beach to the road, then waddled its way to their driveway. Even though it proved to be an unusual morning—and one that "traumatized" their cat, which initially refused to come downstairs after the break-in—Phil says it's actually not unusual to catch a glimpse of seal pups wandering solo at this time of year, as this is when they start to wean off their moms and assert their independence. "I guess, like all teenagers, they don't necessarily make sensible decisions," he tells the Guardian. As for his own young sons, ages 10 and 12, Phil says they "were pretty excited to have something to tell their friends at school," per SunLive. (More seal stories.)

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