A quick glance through a book in his office soon revealed it was a ribbon seal, an Arctic species that spends most of its life at sea, swimming the frigid waters off Alaska and Russia — which is where the pictured adult male ribbon seal was photographed in 2005.
Satellite tracking studies have revealed that ribbon seals do sometimes make it as far as the north Pacific Ocean, south of the Aleutian islands, but much about the species remains mysterious. Because they spend so much of their lives in the open water, it’s a challenge to track them.
“Unfortunately we don’t know a lot about their numbers,” Boveng said. “There’s never been a reliable survey.”The Seattle ribbon seal appears to be only the second on record to make it so far south.
In 1962, a ribbon seal showed up on a beach near Morro Bay, Calif., a town about 200 miles (320 kilometers) north of Los Angeles. According to contemporary reports, the seal was in good shape, but totally bald except for hair on the head, neck and flippers. It died a month later at the local aquarium.
The Seattle ribbon seal’s story is unknown, but one could be forgiven for thinking it a harbinger of things to come. This week, cold winds from Alaska helped create a record winter storm in Seattle, slamming the metro area with 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) of snow. Source