The discovery of at least 60 dead seals that have been found on Alaska's west coast in recent months has astounded federal biologists who said the deaths were reported in "unusually high numbers." The government (NOAA) announced that Several reports of dead bearded, ringed and spotted seals have been received near Nome and north of the Bering Strait.
On Friday alone, a hunter from the village of Kotlik said he had found 18 seal carcasses along the 18-mile coastline – a discovery he described as overwhelming.
I could not believe that there were so many dead, "said Harold Okitkun to the Anchorage Daily News. "It touches my heart because we live off the seals."
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Okitkun also reported having found dozens of other dead seals along an island near Stebbins. On May 10, eight young bearded seals were found on St. Lawrence Island.
North of the Bering Strait in Lake Chukchi, a biologist from the National Park Service near Kotzebues Airport counted six dead seals. NOAA Fisheries also received reports of up to 30 dead seals between Kivalina and Point Hope.
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knows what's going on, "said Julie Speegle, spokeswoman for the NOAA Fisheries Alaska region, the news agency , "We mobilize crews to collect samples and investigate what happens."
Some of the seals had hair loss. During the death of seals and walruses in the years 2011 to 2016, there was abnormal molting. This prompted NOAA Fisheries to conduct an investigation after an unusual mortality event had been reported in the Bering and Chukchi seas.
A definitive cause of abnormal molting has not been identified. During this period, an estimated 657 seals were affected, according to official figures.
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Biologists confirmed 233 dead and stranded ringed seals, bearded seals, spotted seals and 179 killed by hunters. Another 245 were found in health examinations with abnormal molting.
Ice seals are "an essential resource for indigenous communities in Alaska," the NOAA said. The findings have raised food safety concerns as some are worried about seal contamination.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.