Shaktoolik Students Save Seal

Bearded seal on ice floe

In early April, a group of Shaktoolik students rescued an abandoned ugruk (bearded seal) pup. The week-old seal washed on shore in the rural community.

No one knows for certain why the pup was separated from its mother. It was starving and dangerously thin. Residents alerted NOAA and the Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC). The students cared for and protected the ugruk while awaiting transport to Seward, on the other side of the state.

Now, the pup is recuperating at ASLC. Their Wildlife Response Program created a special diet for their unique patient: walrus, harbor seal, fish gruel, and whole herrings. Since the ugruk is also being treated with antibiotics and other specialized medicine, it won’t be released back into the general population to protect the regional food chain. As we go to press, the pup is still learning to swim and to regulate itself in cold water. Once the animal passes the 30-day quarantine, it can swim with other sea creatures — and finally be named.

Image at top: A healthy bearded seal, or ugruk. Photo courtesy of Kawerak Subsistence Program.