Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Deaths of Ringed Seals in Alaska an Unusual Mortality Event - 20th Dec 2011

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration today declared the recent deaths of ringed seals in the Arctic and Bering Strait regions of Alaska an unusual mortality event, triggering a focused, expert investigation into the cause of these deaths.

Since mid-July, more than 60 dead and 75 diseased seals, most of them ringed seals, have been reported in Alaska, with reports continuing to come in.

During their fall survey, scientists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also identified diseased and dead walruses at the annual mass haul-out at Point Lay.

A decision by the Service on making an an unusual mortality declaration for Pacific walrus in Alaska is pending.

Seals and walruses suffering from this disease have skin sores, usually on the hind flippers or face, and patchy hair loss. Some of the diseased animals have exhibited labored breathing and appear lethargic and do not flee from humans as they usually do.

Scientists have not yet identified a single cause for this disease, though tests indicate a virus is not the cause. Read More