450-pound seal removed from northern Utqiagvik airport’s runway

A bearded seal rests on the runway at Utqiagvik Airport. (Photo courtesy of Scott Babcock)

ANCHORAGE — An airport at the northernmost point of Alaska had a surprise hurdle on its runway Monday.

 

A seal estimated to weigh 450 pounds was removed from the Utqiagvik Airport runway by way of sled, KTVA reported.

A photo and video of the bearded seal lounging on the runway was shared 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 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 percent of strikes in the US, while mammal strikes are rare.”

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