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Unknown disease hits Alaska's ringed seals

Friday 14 Oct 2011 11:45 a.m.

A ringed seal pup (file)

A ringed seal pup (file)

By Dan Joling

US federal and local wildlife official are trying to determine what is ailing ringed seals that live in marine waters off Alaska's north coast.

National Marine Fisheries Service spokeswoman Julie Speegle says 107 cases of stranded ringed seals were reported between July and September 29. Ninety-nine appeared to have skin lesions.

She says 46 of the animals were dead or died shortly after they were spotted.

A release from the North Slope Borough says diseased seals were first spotted three months ago. Besides lesions, the animals had lost hair and suffered skin irritation around the nose and eyes.

Ringed seals are the main prey of polar bears and a subsistence species hunted by Alaska Native hunters.

The outbreak was reported first in the Alaska Dispatch.

AP

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