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 discovered on Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula in August, marine scientists wasted no time shooting a photo before the animal disappeared into the ocean.
Ribbon seals aren’t particularly scarce, with a population of around 400,000, predominantly 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 close an animal is to extinction.
Despite their cousins, who are known for leaving their offspring on the beach while foraging for food, these mammals are 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 icy waters off Alaska and Russia, where their beautiful banded coats appear to be squandered.
There are four unique stripes on each ribbon seal. There’s one around the lower back, one in front of the back 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 rare human who comes across one.
The seal’s secretive behavior may have added to the sense of mystery. The animals keep 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 stray from their natural habitats. The mammals give birth to their pups on Arctic sea ice. Their natural 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 humans who believe they are assisting them.
Yes, some seals do wash up in desperate need of human assistance. However, in those rare instances, the best course of action is to contact the professionals, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is in charge of keeping marine species safe.
Call the agency’s hotline at 800-853-1964 if you see an animal that appears to be in distress.