On Oct. 23, workers at an airport in Utqiagvik, Alaska got quite the surprise when they discovered a giant seal lounging on the runway. The water-dwelling mammal was estimated to be a whopping 450 pounds. Naturally, they needed to call in reinforcements to remove the animal. A local animal control unit showed up, and the seal was carried away by sled.
The state’s Department of Transportation took the opportunity to make a clever pun about whole situation, warning pilots of “low sealings” at the airport, a play on the “low ceiling” warning commonly used to let pilots know about low clouds and low visibility.
If you’re wondering how the heck such a large animal ended up on the runway in the first place, well, we’ve got the answer!
Meadow Bailey, the Department of Transportation’s communications director, said that the Arctic coastal town of Utqiagvik, formerly known as Barrow, experienced heavy storms that day. The staff of the Wiley Post-Will Rogers Memorial Airport found the seal while clearing the runway, so the seal must have gotten lost in the storm and was likely just as surprised as the airport staff to find himself there once the storm settled.
While this is the first time a seal was found hanging out on the runway, it is not uncommon for staff to spot all kinds of wildlife, including birds, caribou, polar bears and musk ox.
“Wildlife strikes to aircraft pose a significant safety hazard and cost the aviation industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year,” Bailey told KTVA. “Birds make up over 90 percent of strikes in the US, while mammal strikes are rare. The safety of our aviation system and the traveling public is the primary goal during all wildlife control efforts. DOT&PF (public facilities) rural airports partner with USDA wildlife damage biologists, ADF&G, USFWS, FAA, and others to develop and implement plans to manage wildlife hazards at the 19 airports certified by FAA.”
Check out this incredible footage of the seal just casually lounging on the runway in the video below.
“We got some traffic on the runway. A seal—what do you know?” says the narrator.
Wow! We’re glad that no one was hurt in this incident, and that this guy made it safely back to his home!