Mystery Disease Killing Alaskan Seals
Ringed seal outbreak puzzles biologists
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Oct 14, 2011 3:33 AM CDT
This image provided by the North Slope Borough shows a ringed seal displaying significant hair loss on the Arctic Ocean coast near Barrow, Alaska.    (AP Photo/North Slope Borough)

(Newser) – A mysterious disease is killing seals along Alaska's Arctic coast, and officials fear it might spread to other countries—and other species. Scores of dead or severely weakened ringed seals with telltale skin lesions and hair loss have been found along the coastline over the last few months, Reuters reports. Tissue samples from the seals have been sent to labs around the country, but experts have been unable to identify the disease, or determine whether a virus or bacteria is causing it.

Seal-hunting season is about to begin, and "I'm scared they might pass it on one way or another and the whole ocean could be affected," an official in the far north of the state tells the Alaska Dispatch. Walruses have been found with similar lesions, although it's not clear whether they are suffering from the same disease, and biologists have spotted polar bears preying on the weakened seals. Click to see photos of the afflicted creatures.

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Showing 3 of 14 comments
Oct 14, 2011 2:04 PM CDT
Looks like we're seeing the effects of the world's oil and nuclear mistakes take place.
Oct 14, 2011 8:13 AM CDT
More snuff porn for industrialists
Oct 14, 2011 7:52 AM CDT
There is no "mystery" here as to what is causing the seals to grow ill and die. All of the symptoms listed are indicative of radiation poisoning. You think that someone would have had the presence of mind to break out a Geiger counter and identify the level of radioactive material that these animals have been exposed to. A simple autopsy would tell the tale...