A distressed and exhausted leopard seal, which possibly bit off more than it could chew, has been rehabilitated to the ocean.
Tuncurry couple, Brian and Pat Gilmour were driving along Nine Mile Beach when they spotted a seal lying about three metres from shore.
"He kept trying to open his mouth and kept rocking from side to side," Pat said.
"You could see he was distressed."
Aware of the creature's perceived aggressive behaviour, the couple cautiously crept up to the seal and discovered a blue swimmer crab had become lodged in its mouth.
Concerned for the seal's wellbeing, the couple rang a number of local and State government departments with little success.
"We were worried, but didn't know what to do."
A keen angler, Brian came to the rescue with a worming stick, which luckily was in their vehicle.
After a couple of tentative attempts the stubborn crab was dislodged and the grateful seal slowly began to make its way back to the water.
"It was very upsetting; I can't stand to see things hurt."
Judging from the cuts in its mouth, Pat said the seal was in obvious pain.
Pat and Brian waited more than an hour to ensure the seal returned to its natural habitat.
"I wasn't going to leave until I saw it was back in the water."
Pat likes to believe that the seal turned and gave a little wave of its flipper before disappearing.
'Hopefully, we won't see him washed up again."
Marine rescue group, ORRCA confirmed the mammal was indeed a leopard seal and reassured that hauling out on beaches, especially at this time of year, was normal behaviour for these sub-Antarctic seals.
We are aware of a few of these seals up and down the East Coast at the moment, and they are all a-okay, the spokesperson said.
"We would advise the public to keep a safe 40 metre distance (as required by law), and to respect their space.
"These seals are known to become defensive - fatalities have been recorded.
"The reason authorities didn't intervene in this case is because the animal was being monitored, and intervention only takes place when there are concerns for the seal's ongoing welfare
"The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service were also aware of this seal."
While you're with us, did you know Newcastle Herald offers breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up to date with all the local news - sign up here.
IN NEWS TODAY: