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'Eels In Noses': Young Seal Gets Eel Stuck In Its Nose

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This Hawaiian monk seal was found with a spotted eel stuck up inside its nose this past summer. There are several possible ways as to how the eel may have gotten stuck in the young seal's nose.   ( Brittany Dolan | NOAA Fisheries )

What may have caused seals to be found with eels stuck up inside their noses? It is a relatively new phenomenon, but researchers have already observed it in seals on several occasions.

'Eels In Noses'

On Dec. 4, NOAA Fisheries posted a photo of a juvenile Hawaiian monk seal with an eel dangling from its nose. Specifically, it was actually a spotted eel that was stuck inside the young seal’s nose, and response teams were able to gently remove it without harming or causing damage to the seal.

Interestingly, this was not the first time that authorities have observed this phenomenon. According to NOAA Fisheries, in the nearly 40 years of working and monitoring the marine mammals, the phenomenon they call “eels in noses” has been cropping up only in recent years, with about three or four seals found with eels in their noses.

So far, they are still not certain whether it is merely a strange anomaly or whether they will see more of such incidents in the years to come.

Hawaiian Monk Seals And Eels

In the case of Hawaiian monk seals, experts surmise that there are two possibilities as to how the eels ended up being stuck in their noses.

First, as Hawaiian monk seals tend to forage by shoving their mouths into cracks and crevices in search for prey, it’s possible that the cornered eel might have tried to escape or defend itself and ended up being stuck in the seal's nose. On the other hand, it’s also possible that the seal may have swallowed the eel and then tried to regurgitate it unsuccessfully, having it come out of the nose instead of the mouth.

Either way, they note that all the seals that they have so far found in this situation were quickly caught by the response team and had the eels successfully removed. However, while all of the seals were released without showing any issues related to the incident, none of the eels survived.

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