Silly Seal Gets An Eel Stuck In His Nose

Pablo Tucker
December 7, 2018

According to the NOAA website, researchers started spotting eels in seals' noses just a few years ago, even though the Hawaiian monk seals have been monitored for over 40 years due to their status as a protected endangered species.

No, it's not a tongue-twister for your office Christmas party, it's something that's actually been happening in Hawaii.

After spotting the freaky pairing at French Frigate Shoals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands this past summer, researchers quickly acted to relieve the seal of its discomfort. "The seal did not struggle very much, and no blood came out when the eel was being removed".


The removal process took less than a minute and while the seal was uninjured, the eel wasn't so lucky.

"What is interesting that in the almost 40 years we have been monitoring and conserving we have only started seeing this in the last few years", he said in an e-mail. The post said that it had removed eels from the noses of several seals they're monitoring and that the seals were unharmed in every case, but the same couldn't be said for the eels.

"If I had to guess, I would say that it's one of those strange oddities", Littnan said. "We don't know if this is just some unusual statistical anomaly or something we will see more of in the future". Another is that startled eels get stuck there while attempting to flee the seals as the predators forage for food beneath rocks. Since this phenomenon has been observed only in juvenile seals, Littnan said it could also just be that the seals are inexperienced at hunting.


The program reported another eel-in-nose incident on Facebook in 2016.

According to National Geographic, Hawaiian monk seals' average lifespan is 25 to 30 years in the wild. And while nobody knows for sure why seals keep getting eels stuck up their noses, experts do have two theories: "Monk seals feed by sticking their noses in coral reefs and digging in sand so it is possible the eel was defending itself or trying to escape and forced itself into the nose".

Or seals could be swallowing the eels and then regurgitating them. "All the seals were released and haven't shown any issues from the incidents".


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