Barrow is a Balmy 50 Degrees Out and Seal Hunting Has Commenced!

It Sure Is Hot Out!  The weather in Barrow these past 2 days has been unseasonably warm with clear skies and lots of sunshine.  Today started out as a routine day-training a graduate student from the University of Alaska Fairbanks on how to necropsy Arctic Fox and taking the proper tissues for her upcoming Immunohistochemistry project.  These fox are trapped by USDA Wildlife Services Agents as part of the Stellar Eider Recovery Project.  The goal of the project is to reduce  pressures on nesting Stellar Eiders, which are a federally protected species.  I am told that there was a radio-collared fox who stole 250 eggs from nests in one summer!

Here is a photo of placental scarring in an adult female Arctic Fox…..

After lunch some of the locals told me that an Ugruk (Bearded Seal) was taken last night!  This was shocking given the fact that the ice is nowhere close to going out!  Last year our first bearded seal was taken June 27th.  Apparently the young man took his boat out with a snowmachine to the edge of the ice and then launched it.  This requires enormous effort to do so!  Fifteen minutes later, I get a phone call that 2 more ugruks have been taken in the same manner!    I rushed to get all of my supplies and headed to the hunters house.  The seal was an older male, 7 feet long, with 5 cm blubber thickness.

Here are some of the interesting findings….

I mentioned in a previous blog about the unique laryngeal/tracheal anatomy that the bearded seal possesses.  I am really hoping that a colleague at the department will investigate this unique anatomy further-I suspect it has to do with diving behavior or vocalizations made by bearded seals.

Note the proximal trachea is round and progresses distad as a flattened structure with a significant band of smooth muscle that makes the trachea complete.

Overall, this seal was in excellent body condition.   I was able to identify liver flukes in the gastrointestinal tract.  Postmortem findings in the liver, gall bladder, pancreas and duodenal mucosa supported this finding…

Traumatic Hepatitis, Dilation of  Biliary Ducts (Cholangitis)

Gall Bladder and Pancreatitis

The prostate gland was quite enlarged- not sure about the etiology?

Prostate Gland with Empty Urinary Bladder

Prostate Gland, Cut Surface

Well, I am going to call it a day!  Whew!  It is 1 am already-when seal hunting is on, I am on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!  I am planning to accompany a subsistence hunter on Friday when he goes hunting for Ringed Seals, Nachiqs.  More about that later!  Good night from the Land of the Midnight Sun!

    • jes
    • June 18th, 2010

    Hey Greta! How are things going up there? This is a super interesting post! I have to admit, though, that I decided not to read it over my lunch 🙂

    Hope you’re having fun and learning lots!

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