Bird flu is killing seals around the world

Scientists believe the mammals are contracting the virus from affected seabirds

Biologists are concerned about the impacts of avian influenza on seals and sea lions. The virus, which has devastated wild bird populations and poultry operations around the world, but has also affected a variety of mammal species. That includes pinnipeds, which have died from the virus in various places across the globe.

Over 300 seals died from the disease in New England, several more died in Puget Sound in Washington, over 20,000 sea lions have died and Chile and Peru and thousands of elephant seals have died in Argentina, according to the Associated Press.

Scientists believe the mammals are likely contracting the virus from affected seabirds.

“The loss of wildlife at the current scale presents an unprecedented risk of wildlife population collapse, creating an ecological crisis,” the World Organisation for Animal Health said in a statement.

Read more from the Associated Press.

Header Image: Harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) bask on a beach in the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge complex. Credit: Roy Lowe/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service