Endangered Hawaiian monk seals face new challenge: eels stuck up their noses

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program reported on a squicky find this week when it shared a Facebook photo of a seal with a spotted eel dangling from its nose. This whole situation could just be a "weird anomaly" or a "crazy statistical quirk, and we may never see it again", he added. While the unfortunate, recently photographed seal was doing this, an eel could have, in a case of self-defense, "rammed itself into the nostril and maybe got stuck", Littnan said. Seals with eels up their noses is a phenomenon that has been increasing in the past couple of years.

But researchers are still baffled as to why and how this happens.

However, the agency says it has managed to save up to 30 percent of the monk seals in the current population, cutting the rate of population decline by half.

According to the team with the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program, the odd phenomenon has been seen a handful of times in the past - each with the same outcome. Honestly, despite not being a seal and not having an eel now lodged up my schnozz, I can truly empathise.

These seals search for prey that likes to hide by shoving their mouths and noses into the crevasses of coral reefs, under rocks and into sand.


The NOAA suggested that perhaps the seal had cornered the eel and the slippery creature tried to defend itself or escape before becoming the seal's lunch.

Researchers don't know exactly what is causing the eels to lodge themselves up monk seals' noses, but they are clearly problematic for a mammal that seals its nostrils to dive underwater. "Seals before eels, bruh"laughed a second". We have now found juvenile seals with eels stuck in their noses on multiple occasions.

The uncomfortable sight on the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program Facebook page has received over 1,000 shares, and left many wondering what is going on. "The eels, however, did not make it".

One theory is that seals, which often regurgitate their meals, are simply throwing up eels through their noses. But recent years have shown "encouraging developments", according to NOAA Fisheries.

Good news, though, at least for the seal.

  • Valerie Cook