At least 60 dead ice seals have been found along the coast of the Bering and Chukchi seas in Alaska, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The agency said NOAA Fisheries is investigating reports of “unusually large numbers” of dead ice seals in the area. Ice seals are so named because they live in the Alaskan Arctic. The species includes bearded, ringed and spotted seals.
NOAA said it received multiple reports of dead ice seals in southwest Norton Sound on Monday, including from a hunter who counted 18 seal carcasses along 11 miles of shore and dozens more on the coast of Stuart Island, Alaska.
NOAA Fisheries is working with its partners in the Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Network to photograph and perform necropsies on the animals, NOAA said in a news release.
Some of the dead seals were reported to have lost hair, NOAA said. The agency also has received reports that the seals are unusually thin this year, it said.
More examination needs to be done to determine if the hair loss is part of decomposition or abnormal molting.
Abnormal molting symptoms were present in the 2011-2016 Unusual Mortality Event, which impacted at least 657 ice seals in northern and western Alaska.
NOAA is asking anyone who encounters a sick or dead seal to report it to regional authorities.