Alaska SeaLife Center rescues first elephant seal of the year earlier than normal

Alaska SeaLife Center sees rare first rescue patient of the year
Published: Apr. 28, 2022 at 9:28 AM AKDT
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SEWARD, Alaska (KTUU) - In March, the Alaska SeaLife Center took in their first marine mammal patient of 2022, a year old female elephant seal.

Center staff responded to reports of the elephant seal in Seward Boat Harbor on March 19.

“We’ve had elephant seals in Seward before, but it isn’t something that happens every year,” said Jane Belovarac with the Alaska SeaLife Center.

Since opening in 1998, the SeaLife Center has only tracked 13 elephant seals, an uncommon sighting, experts say, especially during this time of year. Usually, they will see elephant seals come up during the summertime to Alaska, often by way of California.

“Some of them do come up from California during the summer to molt, but it’s a little unusual for them to come into Seward,” Belovarac said. “Usually, they stay in the outer coast and go up into the Aleutians.”

The center said although it is rare, it is not the first time this has happened. This has made it a busier season than usual. Belovarac, a wildlife response curator at the center, said their busy season typically starts in summer.

“We started to get these elephant seal calls back in March,” Belovarac said. “Usually, early spring is when we’d get to some calls about ice seals up in the Arctic.”

Already this season, staff has been made aware of four elephant seals in the state, including the one in Seward. Another elephant seal showed up in Seward a couple weeks prior to the female seal, but Belovarac said there was no need to rescue him. They are also currently monitoring one near Kodiak.

“There’s been an elephant seal that has been hanging out on their beaches for a couple weeks now,” Belovarac said. “We’ve been working with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Sun’aq tribe of Kodiak to help monitor this animal and make sure that she is being left alone.”

The female seal in Seward was studied and released by the SeaLife Center just five days after being reported, with the center’s Wildlife Response Team successfully helping the 320-pound mammal into the water at Lowell Point, just south of Seward.

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