Updated: January 12, 2012
Photo credit: LDA
On Wednesday, January 11, the sighting of an unusually-colored seal on a dock up the Duwamish River near Seattle was reported to Matt Cleland, District Supervisor of Wildlife Services with APHIS. Pictures were taken, sent to interested parties, and confirmed to be a ribbon seal! According to Matt, this is only the second time since 1962 that a ribbon seal has been documented this far south. From the photos, the seal appears to be in good body condition.
It is impossible to confuse an adult ribbon seal with any other species. Adult seals are recognizable by their black skin, which carries four white markings: a strip around the neck, one around the tail and a circular marking on each body side, which encloses the front fins.
Ribbon seals inhabit the North Pacific Ocean, specifically the Bering and Okhotsk Seas, and parts of the Arctic Ocean, including the Chukchi, eastern Siberian, and western Beaufort Seas. They are strongly associated with sea ice for mating, whelping pups and molting from mid-March through June. Most of the rest of the year is spent at sea; they are rarely seen on land.
NOAA Fisheries NW Region Marine Mammal Stranding Specialist, Kristin Wilkinson, states that the seal hasn’t been seen since Wednesday. Please report any further sightings to her at email@example.com or 206-526-4747.
Click on the following link if you would like more information on ribbon seals. http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/pinnipeds/ribbonseal.htm