Observation by Harold Okitkun:
I heard that there was talk about dead seals washing up and I put a post up asking about it on FB and I had a family friend (Tasha Tonuchuk) send me pictures. These pictures were taken along the coast between Kotlik and Pt. Romanoff. My son and I went up North from Kotlik and got up to about the Charlie Greens creek, but from Reindeer Camp to Charlie Green creek we counted 18 dead seals washed up. The first seal in the pictures is about 2 and a half feet long. I noticed that the seals looked a little skinny and a lot of them had no fur, also the gulls ate a bunch of their eyes out. I noticed on a few of the seals their intestines were coming out of their belly buttons. These were taken on 7 June 2019 in the afternoon between 12:00 noon and 4:30 pm. I called this in to NOAA, and will be shipping the seal out later this morning.
Gay Sheffield, with the Marine Advisory Program, writes:
Thank you Harold Okitkun for taking the time to make photos and getting the word out! I was on travel and am back catching up with your news. Gee whiz the seals are having a tough time. Looks like they have been floating in the water for a while before landing and the amphipods have been feasting on their heads. Likely gulls or some other kind of scavenger were quick to open them and get to the intestines. During May in Nome we have had reports of over 2 dozen seals on the beaches (as well as near and far in the region). Am also thankful you were able to find Brandon Ahmasuk - he forwarded your report as well. All available photos would be a big help in documenting this mass stranding of seals.
Comments from LEO Editors:
This observation has been forwarded to the Environmental Health Department at the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation
NOAA Fisheries has confirmed that an unusually high number of seals have been found dead along the Bering Sea coast. At least 60 seals have been found dead so far this year. In addition to the seals documented in this post, others have been reported along the shores of Stuart Island, St. Lawrence Island, between Kotzebue and Airport and Sadie Creek, and between Kivalina and Point Hope. Over the past five years, NOAA has documented an average of 18 ice seals deaths per year.
NOAA has also documented an unusually high number of gray whale deaths this year. So far, 152 gray whales have been found dead between Mexico, US, and Canada. There is no connection between these mortality events at this time.
If you see a sick or dead seal, please report it immediately to the appropriate regional contact below:
NOAA’s Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Network 24-hour Hotline: 877-925-7773
North Slope Borough: North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management: 907-852-0350
Bering Strait Region: Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program: 855-443-2397 / 907-434-1149
Bering Strait Region: Kawerak, Inc. Subsistence Program: 907-443-4265
Bering Strait Region: Eskimo Walrus Commission: 877-277-4392
Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta: Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program: 855-443-2397 / 907-434-1149