An unexpected furry traveler has set off on an adventure to Hobbiton, Middle-earth.
“Sammy the Seal” was found frolicking in The Shire’s peaceful lake on Sunday morning, leaving film set staff and visitors in awe.
The young man is believed to have traveled along the Waitoa River, which branches off from the Piako River, before rolling over sheep and cattle farmland and into the Shire, 90 km inland.
And with or without a successful audition, Sammy quickly became part of the scene. Tour guides have incorporated his arrival into their scripts and guests love him.
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“We had some pretty interesting characters in Hobbiton, but nothing like it,” said Shayne Forrest, assistant general manager of Hobbiton. Thing.
“We’ve been told to diversify our market under Covid, so that’s one way to do it,” he said with a laugh.
“People don’t believe me when I tell them. “
This is the first time that the tourist attraction hotspot has seen something like this.
Sammy was first spotted by Green Dragon Inn bartender Ellis Paterson around 9:30 a.m. Sunday. The next day, the cheeky seal was seen cruising around the lake, jumping.
“At one point he came out and we thought he was going to rip up a beef and beer pie,” Forrest joked.
Forrest said Hobbiton Lake is teeming with eels and additional shoreline planting in recent weeks has left the water quality pretty good.
The Department of Conservation was notified and the crew conducted an assessment over the phone. It was determined that the seal was happy and healthy and would leave when it wanted.
Hobbiton sits on a 1,250-acre sheep and cattle farm in the heart of Waikato.
“I’m surprised he walked in, he should have made his way through farmland,” Forrest said.
“I don’t know where he came from. “
Hobbiton Lake was created by man in the early 1950s as a duck hunting pond. It is fed by a spring and is not connected to any river or stream.
While it’s unclear where Sammy came from, one of the more likely options is the nearby Waitoa River, which connects to a small waterway just north of the film set.
The river, which runs parallel to Hobbiton, has been used in the past by other aquatic creatures to visit the area. In 2020, a pod of around 60 dolphins made their way from the Firth of Thames to the Piako River.
DOC marine specialist Laura Boren said it was likely the seal cut from the coast and followed the river south.
“This is not the first time that seals have appeared in unusual places, they usually follow a body of water for a fair distance and in some cases travel up to 100 km,” Boren said.
As long as he has the river, he can travel quickly, she said. They slow down on earth, but with their low center of gravity and fat they aren’t too afraid of getting hurt.
They can also gallop by rotating their hind fins forward, allowing them to move quickly on land.
“He’s gone for a long wandering, he doesn’t have to be anywhere,” she said.
DOC has a hands-off approach with seals and will only intervene if the animal is in obvious danger, such as getting too close to a road, becoming entangled in debris, being harassed on a public beach, or being harassed on a public beach. he is seriously injured.
Boren was not concerned about the safety of the seal or guests in Hobbiton, saying fur seals can “bark” or “growl” if they are surprised and usually run away. He will only attack if he’s cornered and has no other choice.
Between mid-November and mid-January, adult males head to breeding colonies, in preparation for the breeding season. Those who are not of childbearing age or in condition will go wherever they want.
“They explore and usually they follow a stream and can wander, so they end up in unusual places.”
Boren said, based on photos, that the seal is not an elderly breeding animal. She estimated it to be a subadult male, between five and 10 years old.
“They mature sexually at six years old, but do not mature socially until ten years old. Females are sexually mature at four or five years old and begin to reproduce immediately.”
Fur seals are the most common seals in New Zealand. They are most often found on rocky shores but are curious and explorers by nature and can be seen all around the coast in unusual places.
Boren expects Sammy to tell Hobbiton a few more days before continuing and doesn’t expect his return through farmland to be too risky.
“Animals are very suspicious of each other, they will probably just walk away.
“The road is the biggest problem. “