It’s not every day that one of the world’s most famous sea hermits pays the beach a visit. And you’d assume he’d gone all out for the occasion.
When a ribboned seal was sighted on Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula in August, marine biologists wasted no time capturing a photo before the creature disappeared into the surf.
Ribbon seals aren’t very scarce, with a population of approximately 400,000, primarily in the North Pacific Ocean, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List classifies them as a species of Least Concern.
This places them at the bottom of the organization’s scale for determining how near an animal is to extinction.
The latest ribbon seal sighting occurred in 2012, when an adult seal identified simply as B310 made a brief visit on a Seattle woman’s pier.
Unlike their relatives, which are known for leaving their young on the beach while foraging for food, these animals seem unconcerned with dry land.
And if they do, it’ll most likely be closer to their ancestral habitat in the High Arctic. Ribbon seals are most commonly found in the cold seas in Alaska and Russia, where their colorful banded coats appear to be squandered.
There are four different stripes on each ribbon seal. There’s one around the lower back, one in front of the rear flipper, and a band that wraps around each of the front flippers.
These bands may also aid ribbon seals in identifying worthy mates, in addition to aweing the occasional person who stumbles across one.
The seal’s secretive behavior may have added to the feeling of mystery. The animals hold their secrets close to their vests, literally. They are, for example, the only seals with an internal air sac, the purpose of which is yet unknown to experts.
Unfortunately, more ribbon seals may begin to wander from their native habitats. The mammals give birth to their pups on Arctic sea ice. Their native habitat is rapidly disappearing as the ice melts.
And we’ve all seen what happens when animals go too close to people’s homes.
Seals seen on the beach are frequently misinterpreted as being in distress. But, in the end, the only suffering they endure is at the hands of people who believe they are assisting them.
Yes, some seals do wash up in desperate need of human assistance. However, in such rare instances, the best course of action is to contact the specialists, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is in charge of keeping marine creatures safe.
Call the agency’s hotline at 800-853-1964 if you see an animal that appears to be in distress.