Hawaii Seal Gets Eel Stuck Up Nose

A seal in Hawaii got an eel stuck up its nose. A photo of the seal shows the eel hanging out of one of its nostrils, with the tail end hanging down and the head presumably wedged up the seal’s schnoz.

The photo was released by the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program (HMSRP), which is part of the NOAA Fisheries and works to conserve and help the recovery of the endangered Hawaiian monk seal.

The HMSRP said this is not the first time a seal has gotten an eel stuck up its nose—juveniles have been found in this state on multiple occasions. Why it happens, however, is a mystery.

A Facebook post from the group said: “Mondays...it might not have been a good one for you but it had to have been better than an eel in your nose. We have reported on this phenomenon before which was first noted a few years back. We have now found juvenile seals with eels stuck in their noses on multiple occasions. In all cases the eel was successfully removed and the seals were fine. The eels, however, did not make it.”

monk seal The monk seal with an eel stuck up its nose. B. Dolan/Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program

The HMSRP found another seal with an eel up its nose in 2016. The eel was found in the waters off Lisianski Island and a vet was called to help devise a plan to remove it. The vet said the seal’s behavior was normal, but that it was “exhibiting a wheezing sound with every breath.”

Because of the breathing difficulties, the vet decided to try to remove the eel with “quick handling” as if the seal tried to swim or dive during the extraction process, it could lead to more problems. 

Explaining what happened next, the team said: "The eel was successfully removed from [the seal’s] right nostril this afternoon in 45 seconds! Hooray! It was definitely weird, as the eel was almost two feet long, which was surprising as only about four inches were hanging out of [the seal’s] nostril.

“It was almost like those magician trick scarves that they just keep pulling out of the hat. We are pretty sure the complete animal was removed, as the skull was found, but some fins or spines may have come off the eel during the removal. The seal did not struggle very much, and no blood came out when the eel was being removed."

According to the IUCN Red List, there are only 632 mature Hawaiian monk seals left in the wild. Populations have been declining since the 1950s and they were declared an endangered species in 1976. The biggest threats facing monk seals are mainly human related—including fishing and harvesting aquatic resources, pollution and habitat disturbance.

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