Home > Mass Animal Deaths, Pestilence > Alaska: Deaths of Ringed Seals Declared an ‘Unusual Mortality Event’, Cause Remains Unknown

Alaska: Deaths of Ringed Seals Declared an ‘Unusual Mortality Event’, Cause Remains Unknown


ENS – “JUNEAU, Alaska, December 20, 2011 (ENS) – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration today declared the recent deaths of ringed seals in the Arctic and Bering Strait regions of Alaska an unusual mortality event, triggering a focused, expert investigation into the cause of these deaths.

Since mid-July, more than 60 dead and 75 diseased seals, most of them ringed seals, have been reported in Alaska, with reports continuing to come in.

During their fall survey, scientists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also identified diseased and dead walruses at the annual mass haul-out at Point Lay.

A decision by the Service on making an an unusual mortality declaration for Pacific walrus in Alaska is pending.

Seals and walruses suffering from this disease have skin sores, usually on the hind flippers or face, and patchy hair loss. Some of the diseased animals have exhibited labored breathing and appear lethargic and do not flee from humans as they usually do.

Scientists have not yet identified a single cause for this disease, though tests indicate a virus is not the cause.

Dr. Stephen Raverty, veterinary pathologist with the Provincial Veterinary Diagnostic Lab in British Columbia, told reporters on a conference call today that the lesions on these animals are much more severe than the patchy hair loss usually seen.

‘These appear to be ulcerated lesions with secondary infections,’ he said. ‘Opportunistic yeast and fungi and bacteria have invaded.’

But Dr. Raverty said scientists still have not determined the cause or causes of these deaths. ‘Our analysis is not completed,’ he said. ‘It could be an environmental factor or more than one disease.’

‘We have forwarded the sampled tissues to labs – bacteria, mycology, virology,’ he said. ‘We are screening for 18 recognized pathogens, but all the lab results have come back negative.'” Read more.

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  1. 12/26/2011 at 10:33 PM

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