A yellow-eyed penguin, with a flipper tag, made a rare visit to Caroline Bay on Monday. Grant Shimmin/Fairfax NZ
The penguin was spotted at the Marine Parade end of Caroline Bay on Monday morning and stayed at the beach until noon.
DOC was alerted, however when rangers arrived shortly after 1pm, there was no sign of the penguin, which witnesses had spotted heading back into the sea an hour earlier.
Ranger Kevin Pearce said the penguin could have been underweight or injured, but it was not uncommon for them to pull out onto the beach to rest up.
The best thing to do if a penguin was spotted was to call the DOC hotline, Pearce said. "If you can, stay with them until the rangers turn up. If you can't, be location-specific."
If the penguin was there, Pearce said they would remove it from the area and release it somewhere there were no dogs.
Now that dogs are allowed at the bay, Timaru's Penguin Support Group has placed information notices around the penguin area.
Member Greg Adams said dogs harming penguins was not generally a problem at this time of year as most penguins had "flown the coop".
Most people were respectful, but there were one or two who weren't, he said.
"Some of them see it as their spot. Most people are respectful."
Penguins were also "astute" animals and ducked into the rocks when they felt unsafe, Adams said.
The yellow-eyed penguin is not a common penguin in this area, with numerous little blue penguins nesting at Caroline Bay.
DOC biodiversity ranger Steve Harroway said although numbers weren't huge, they did receive calls about yellow-eyed penguins each year along the coast, including at Caroline Bay.
The penguin which was spotted at Caroline Bay had a tag, but DOC could not say where it originally came from.