Viruses linked with seal strandings in New England

A harbor seal appears on a beach in Maine, where viruses have been linked to numerous recent strandings. ©Kristin Shoemaker

With an unusually high number of harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) washing up dead on beaches in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, preliminary tests have turned up indications of avian flu and distemper viruses in the animals. More than 350 dead seals, and over 100 live ones, have turned up on the beaches in the three states since July. Officials say it’s too early to say if the viruses are the cause of the strandings, although they have been linked to past mortality events in the region.

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