Alaska News

Ailing seal pup rescued in latest discovery of distressed Alaska marine mammals

An orphaned and injured seal pup rescued this week from a Southeast Alaska beach was one of several found this summer, federal agency officials said.

The female seal pup found on Douglas Island was taken to the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward and is in stable condition, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a statement. The pup was lethargic and very thin -- only 16.5 pounds -- and bore wounds on her face and upper body, probably from predator attacks, officials said.

"She was one of a number of seal pups very recently reported abandoned in Southeast. It's unusual to get pup reports this late in the summer, but it's been a very unusual marine mammal year in many respects," Kate Savage, a veterinarian for NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service, said in the statement issued Thursday.

It was the second such case this week, NOAA spokeswoman Julie Speegle said Friday.

An orphaned seal was picked up in Metlakatla and shipped to the SeaLife Center on Monday. And NOAA officials were also called out to another case in Yakutat recently, she said.

"We don't know what's going on in the environment, but it does seem to be an unusual year," Speegle said

Seal pups are not the only marine mammals experiencing some difficulty in waters off Alaska. NOAA and the University of Alaska Fairbanks are conducting an investigation into the deaths of 14 whales, most of them rare fin whales, that appear to have happened at the same time, late May or early June, in the Kodiak region of the Gulf of Alaska. And the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been investigating the deaths of approximately 25 walruses found in the area of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge at about the same time the dead fin whales were discovered.


The Douglas Island seal pup is being treated with antibiotics and being rehydrated, NOAA said in the statement. The pup's wounds were infected and she may have underlying bone damage, NOAA said.

"We are doing everything we can to nurse her back to health; however, her prognosis is guarded given the extent of the wounds. If she recovers and passes both medical and behavioral tests, she will be released back into the wild this fall near her original location," Carrie Goertz, a staff veterinarian at the SeaLife Center, said in the NOAA statement. She said late Friday that the pup is "seriously ill" and continues to be in guarded condition.

As for the pup from Metlakatla, "unfortunately, that animal did not make it," Goertz said.

The number of abandoned seal pups is not enough to be a trend for seals specifically, Goertz said. But she agreed that there have been some out-of-the-ordinary events with marine mammals in general.

"There's definitely been some clusters of unusual deaths," she said.

Yereth Rosen

Yereth Rosen was a reporter for Alaska Dispatch News.