11-29-14 Sick harbor seal - Chefornak, Alaska, USA
Observation: These photos of unusual internal organs of a harbor seal were shared with us by a local subsistence hunter, Tom L. Tom, who caught the harbor seal on Saturday, November 29, 2014. The seal had soft and greenish liver, patches in the lungs and had tapeworms in the blood from the lung area. He stated it was the first time he saw the unusual internal organs in a seal he caught and tapeworms in the blood where they are usually found in the intestines. He also said it was the first time an elder in the household saw these in a seal. They would like to know if the seal is safe to eat.
UAF Marine Advisory Program (MAP) Consult: (2014-12-02) Gay Sheffield, MAP Agent in Nome writes, "The description of the problem was great and the quality of the photos is excellent and will be very helpful in the diagnosis of the problem." The following day G. Sheffield continued, "I spoke with the State of Alaska Epidemiologist earlier today. She recommended that a thorough cooking of the meat to kill any heartworm parasites. She did recommend that since other organs appeared to be in distress (liver, lung) - it would be up to the individual to decide whether or not to use this seal for human consumption. The best advice I've heard when it comes to deciding what is fit to eat - and when there is no clear science answer...is to rely on your best traditional practices and the experience of your elders." See the NCBI, U.S. National Library of Medicine Journal article, Phocid seals, seal lice and heartworms: a terrestrial host-parasite system conveyed to the marine environment.. by Leidenberger S, Harding K, Härkönen T. (Published Oct, 15, 2007)
North Slope Borough (NSB) Consult: Based on the photos provided to Raphaela Stimmelmayr, Wildlife Veterinarian, she writes, "Most likely heartworm. The puffy (patches on the lung) are normal lung tissue; they are raised, the remainder of the lung (dark purple) is congested and most likely pneumonia present." NSB Department of Wildlife Managment