Endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals Are Getting Eels Stuck Up Their Noses

Endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals Are Getting Eels Stuck Up Their Noses

Endangered Hawaiian monk seals getting eels stuck up their noses and scientists aren't sure what to make of it.

The NOAA's Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program posted a photo on its Facebook page of one of the seals with an eel lodged in its right nostril.

In the post, the organization explained: "Mondays...it might not have been a good one for you but it had to have been better than an eel in your nose. We have reported on this phenomenon before which was first noted a few years back. We have now found juvenile seals with eels stuck in their noses on multiple occasions. In all cases the eel was successfully removed and the seals were fine. The eels, however, did not make it."

HMSRP's lead scientist Charles Littnan notes that researchers are still baffled and taken aback by this phenomenon.

Speaking with CNN, Littnan said: "This is a good example that no matter how well studied or watched an animal is, it is always going to present you with something you have never seen before. Sometimes it is an amazing demonstration of intelligence or physical ability, sometimes it is a juvenile seal with an eel stuck in its nostril."

HMSRP shared that eels are "a small part of a balanced Hawaiian monk seal diet." It's possible that a seal could get an eel lodged in its nostril while hunting for prey or even attempting to eat.

CNN notes that scientists believe the incidence could occur if "eels launch themselves defensively at the seals while they are foraging for food." Another idea is that a "seal may swallow an eel whole and then regurgitate it through its nose." How pleasant.

Back in 2016, HMSRP reported that they had a call regarding a monk seal with "the tail of an eel sticking out of its nostril."

While bizarre and unusual at the time to get a call about an eel in a seal's nose, the orgnaization shared in a follow-up post that they were able to successfully remove the slippery creature from the animal's nose in less than a minute. They said, "The eel was almost 2 feet long, which was surprising as only about 4 inches were hanging out...It was almost like those magician trick scarves that they just keep pulling out of the hat."

Since then, multiple reports of monk seals with eels in their nostrils have been reported. According to The Guardian, Littnan said: "We've been intensively monitoring monk seals for four decades and in all of that time nothing like this has happened. Now it's happened three or four times and we have no idea why."

Nature is curious.

Malorie Thompson

Malorie works as a writer and editor in Northern California. She's passionate about food, conscious living, animal welfare, and conservation. She's worked with a variety of publications in different sectors but is happiest covering topics close to her heart. When not at her laptop, Malorie can be found enjoying picnics on the beach, hiking in the redwoods, and spending time with her rescue pup, Jax.

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