Since 2019, the Commander Islands National Park has been actively studying the harbor seal or the Far Eastern subspecies of the common seal, listed in the Red Data Book of Russia. In 2021, thanks to a grant from WWF Russia a lot of work was carried out on Bering Island: we installed satellite tags on several animals and sampled them.
We needed swab samples to determine possible infections. Photo by National Park Press Service
This fall, we finished the next stage of research of these unique animals. Staff members of the national park together with a group of scientists from the A. N. Severtsov Institute for Problems of Ecology and Evolution carried out work on Medny Island as part of a program to study the effect of red tides on marine mammals in Kamchatka Krai. A team of researchers reached the remote uninhabited island on Iron Lady yacht, equipped with everything necessary for long-term marine expeditions, including scientific ones.
Blood clinical studies of marine mammals will provide new data on the physiology of animals living in natural conditions. Photo by National Park Press Service
The team caught 21 animals and installed a satellite tag on each seal to obtain data on spacial distribution in the water area around the archipelago. In addition, each animal was measured; samples of blood, hair, vibrissa and swabs were taken. All these tests are necessary for an in-depth study of the biology of this understudied subspecies. For example, hair samples will allow us to find out the content of heavy metals in the body of animals, and a swab sample from the nose is needed to determine the infections that these animals can suffer from.
It is the first large-scale research of harbor seal on Medny Island. National Park Press Service
The array of data accumulated so far as on Bering Island, combined with the data to be received from Medny Island, will provide a more complete knowledge of the biology and ecology of this rare subspecies. We will continue this large-scale work to learn more about harbor seal life on the islands and outside and we will gladly share with you the results of the research!
Hair samples will show the content of heavy metals in the body of animals Photo by National Park Press Service