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This seal got an eel stuck in its nose, but how?

How did this seal get an eel stuck in its nose? We may never know, scientists say.

An endangered Hawaiian monk seal was observed with an eel stuck in its nose, a situation that scientists say they’ve only started seeing in the last few years.

<who>Photo Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Brittany Dolan

Researchers with the NOAA Fisheries say that they’ve observed this phenomenon three or four times now.

“We don’t know if this is just some strange statistical anomaly or if we will see more eels in seals in the future,” they said. "In the nearly 40 years that we have been working to monitor and protect endangered Hawaiian monk seals, we have only started seeing "eels in noses" in the last few years."

“Hawaiian monk seals forage by shoving their mouth and nose into the crevasses of coral reefs, under rocks, or into the sand. They are looking for prey that likes to hide, like eels. This may be a case of an eel that was cornered trying to defend itself or escape. Alternatively, the seal could have swallowed the eel and regurgitated it so that the eel came out the wrong way. We might never know.”

The NOAA Fisheries adds that every seal they’ve caught in this “slippery situation” have been quickly caught by their response team and the eel was gently and successfully removed.

The seals were released and haven’t shown any issues from the incidents, according to the NOAA fisheries.

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