A male ribbon seal in seemingly excellent health recently climbed onto the private dock of a Seattle homeowner, becoming the first member of its species ever sighted in Washington state. Ribbon seals normally live in the far North Pacific and Arctic between Russia and Alaska, reports Our Amazing Planet.
Somehow, the seal turned up on the woman's property, about a mile from the mouth of the Duwamish River, a highly industrialized waterway that cuts through southern Seattle. In 2001, the EPA declared the last 5.5 miles of the river a Superfund site - an area contaminated with hazardous substances in need of cleanup.
The sighting was "pretty exciting," said Arctic seal researcher Peter Boveng, leader of the National Marine Mammal Laboratory's Polar Ecosystems Program. "It's really unusual."
Ribbon seals, named for the unmistakable stark white markings that ring their necks, flippers and hindquarters, typically shun dry land.
The species, which gives birth on sea ice, is being reviewed by the federal government for possible endangered status as Arctic ice recedes. A ribbon seal was seen in 1962 off Morro Bay, Calif. It was captured and soon died in captivity. The Vancouver Sun reports British Columbia also has never had a reported ribbon seal sighting.