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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — In Alaska, it’s not uncommon for wildlife like polar bears to wander onto an airport’s runway, but a lounging seal is far more unusual.
But that’s what workers found at the airport in the nation’s northernmost city on Monday. A seal estimated to weigh 450 pounds (204 kilograms) was removed from the runway at the airport at Utqiagvik (pronounced (oot-GHAR’-vik) by way of sled, KTVA reported .
A photo and video of the bearded seal lounging on the runway in the town formerly known as Barrow was shared by Scott Babcock on Facebook.
The state Department of Transportation got in on the fun by warning pilots of “low sealings” at the airport.
Meadow Bailey, the department’s communications director, said Utqiagvik, an Arctic Ocean coastal community on Alaska’s North Slope, experienced heavy storms Monday. Staff found the seal while clearing the runway.
The department’s staff members are not allowed to handle marine mammals, so the seal was removed by North Slope Animal Control.
The workers have seen birds, caribou, polar bears and musk ox on the runway, but the seal sighting was a first, Bailey said.
“Wildlife strikes to aircraft pose a significant safety hazard and cost the aviation industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year,” Bailey said. “Birds make up over 90 per cent of strikes in the US, while mammal strikes are rare.”