Eight young bearded seals were found Monday on St. Lawrence Island.
North of the Bering Strait in the Chukchi Sea, a National Park Service biologist counted six dead seals near Kotzebue’s airport. NOAA Fisheries also received accounts of up to 30 dead seals between Kivalina and Point Hope.
Abnormal molting was present during the deaths of ice seals and walruses from 2011 to 2016 and led NOAA Fisheries to investigate after declaring an unusual mortality event in the Bering and Chukchi seas.
A definitive cause for the abnormal molting was not identified.
The agency estimated that 657 seals were affected over those six years. Biologists confirmed 233 dead and stranded ringed, bearded, spotted and ribbon seals and 179 killed by hunters. Another 245 were found with abnormal molting during health assessments.
Ringed seals are the smallest of Alaska’s ice seals and get their name from small, light-colored circles on their coats. They are the only seals that thrive in completely ice-covered Arctic waters.