Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say avian flu is responsible for an unusually high number of seal deaths along the coast of Maine. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service confirmed four stranded seals tested positive for the H5N1 strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza. All died or required euthanasia.
The tests followed an uptick in seals found on Maine beaches this summer. Most have been dead. The numbers are about three times the normal rate of seal strandings in the state, NOAA says.
The H5N1 virus has led to the deaths of tens of millions of chickens and turkeys on farms in the U.S. and has been unusually widespread in wild birds around the world. In addition to seals, several species of mammals also have been infected, including foxes and coyotes.