In March, 2012, marine mammal scientists received reports of a nearly bald, sick seal beached near Yakutat, Alaska. The seal was eventually captured and transferred to Anchorage for examination by a pathologist and wildlife veterinarians from the Alaska SeaLife Center, Bridge Veterinary Services, UAF Marine Advisory Program and ringed seal experts from the North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management.
When the seal pup arrived in Anchorage, it was found to be so ill it had to be euthanized. An examination of the body revealed that the seal exhibited similar symptoms to those in the declared 2011 Northern Pinniped Unusual Mortality Event (UME). The phenomenon has been affecting ice seals and walruses in the Arctic and Bering Strait regions of Alaska since the summer of 2011.
More than 60 dead and 75 diseased seals, most of them ringed seals, have been reported in Alaska. Scientists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have also discovered the disease in walruses at the Point Lay haul-out.
Mariners that find a marine mammal which appears diseased or distressed can call NOAA Fisheries Stranding Hotline at 1-877-925-7773.
Information on the UME assessment progress and findings can be found at: