Published: Fri, December 07, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

Why have seals been getting eels stuck up their noses?

Why have seals been getting eels stuck up their noses?

The Hawaiian monk seal has become endangered due to a range of threats, from fishing net entanglements to disease.

What they do know: All the seals they have found sporting this peculiar nose accessory are doing fine.

Earlier this week, officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program shared a photo showing a juvenile Hawaiian monk seal with a long eel stuck in its nostril.

KTLV reports that this particular viral picture was taken over the summer on the French Frigate Shoals. "In nearly 40 years of monitoring, we have actually never observed this until a few years ago", Littnan said.

In an elaborated post on the NOAA Fisheries website, the experts say seals with an eel jammed up their nose have been seen three of four times over the last 40 years.

"We've been intensively monitoring monk seals for four decades and in all of that time nothing like this has happened", said Charles Littnan, lead scientist at Noaa's Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program.

What's even stranger is that the seal program has seen this happen before, first noting the phenomenon a few years ago and citing multiple cases of juvenile seals with nostril eels since then.

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The response teams have been able to successfully remove all eels from the affected seals.

They've told the media they really have no idea what's causing the spike in eel-related incidents. "We don't know if this is just some unusual statistical anomaly or something we will see more of in the future", the NOAA wrote.

Monk seals nose around in coral reefs, root around in the sand, and flip over 50-lb.

Good news, though, at least for the seal. "We might never know".

Officials estimate only about 1,400 Hawaiian monk seals remain in the wild, most of which are found near the northwestern Hawaiian Islands. "All the seals were released and haven't shown any issues from the incidents".

Now if they could just keep their noses clean. Alternatively, the seal could have swallowed the eel and regurgitated it so that the eel came out the wrong way.

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