Stranded Ice Seals Find Assistance through the Alaska SeaLife Center's Wildlife Response Program
September 1, 2015

Seward, AK – September 1, 2015 – This summer, two ice seals from the Bering Sea received much-needed medical care from the Alaska SeaLife Center’s Wildlife Response team. As the only permanent marine rehabilitation center in Alaska, the Center’s Wildlife Response team has spent 17 years building a recognized expertise on caring for seals that have been found distressed. Every summer, the ASLC’s Wildlife Response program rehabilitates 6-12 harbor seals and may see ice seals every other year. This summer, two ice seals were admitted within one month of each other.

The Alaska SeaLife Center’s Wildlife Response team admitted a two week-old spotted seal pup from Nome on June 19, 2015. The male pup weighed 8.6 kg (19 pounds) on arrival and was initially fed a formula that contains all of the nutrients and calories needed to help seal pups grow. The pup has now graduated to a diet of herring, capelin, and pollock. His most recent weight was 15.6 kg (34 pounds).  
On July 16, a male ringed seal from the Stebbins area was also admitted. Veterinary staff believe the ringed seal is about one year-old and was experiencing a challenging molt when it was spotted by a concerned local hunter. The seal was brought in with wounds and signs of dehydration. His weight when admitted was 11.8 kg (26 pounds), and he was tube-fed fluids until he was rehydrated. Since he is a yearling, he has been on a diet of herring, capelin, pollock, and clams since arrival.   
Both ice seals are currently in good condition. NOAA has determined that ice seals rehabilitated outside of their usual range are not releasable; therefore, the ringed seal and spotted seal admitted this summer will be cared for at ASLC until a long-term placement facility is identified. This week, visitors to the Alaska SeaLife Center may spy a spotted seal swimming with one of the harbor seals in an outdoor holding pool, which can be viewed from the overlook near the Discovery Touch Pool. 
Ringed and spotted seals are classified as “ice seals” because they spend the majority of their lives on or near sea ice. The other two ice seal species in Alaska are the bearded seal and ribbon seal. For these species, Bering and Arctic sea ice provides habitat for birthing and rearing pups. Ice seals are difficult to study because they tend not to live in congregated packs and they are difficult to access in their natural habitat. They are so adept at living with sea ice that they can create camouflaging snow dens and difficult-to-find breathing holes that typically protect them from predators above the ice. 
Ice seals rescued by the Alaska SeaLife Center’s Wildlife Response program provide important information to researchers about these elusive species. Sea ice habitats are diminishing in the Arctic due to climate change, making ongoing research about ice seals a high priority. Over the past year, the ASLC response team has also designed Mobile Treatment and Rehabilitation Enclosures (MTRE) that will be staged along the Arctic coast, so that their expertise in rehabilitating ice seals can be immediately engaged should there be a catastrophic event. 
The Alaska SeaLife Center is a private non-profit research institution and visitor attraction, which generates and shares scientific knowledge to promote understanding and stewardship of Alaska’s marine ecosystems.  The Alaska SeaLife Center is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. For additional information, visit
The Alaska SeaLife Center operates a 24-hour hotline for the public to report stranded marine mammals or birds, and encourages people who have found a stranded or sick marine animal to avoid touching or approaching the animal.  Call first!  1-888-774-SEAL
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