Locally increased mortality of harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) in the Danish Limfjord

Trine Hammer Jensen, Jesper Schak Krog, Charlotte Kristiane Hjulsager, Lars Erik Larsen, Mariann Chriél, Elisabeth Holm, Karl Pedersen, Mette Sif Hansen

    Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debateCommunication


    At the end of August 2014 an aerial seal counting was done by Aarhus University (Galatius, A) and increased mortality was observed on a small island Ejerslev Røn (56° 56’N 0, 8° 57’Ø) and a sand bank Blinderøn about 4 km south-east of Ejserslev Røn. Both islands/sandbanks are protected nature reserves. The islands were inspected the following day by boat/walking. In total, 56 dead seals were found on Ejerslev Røn and Blinderøn. Four were shot due to severe respiratory symptoms and these four seals did not escape into the water when approached.
    All 60 seals except one with fishing net around the neck were dead within few days. One of the seals had a tag showing it had been through rehabilitation in the Netherlands (Zeehondencreche Pieterburen) in 2010, where it was treated for a lungworm infection (information from Lenie’t Hart about the tagged seal). This indicates the long distances seals are travelling and that lungworm infections can be successfully treated.
    A field necropsy was done on the four shot seals and all suffered from pneumonia. Three of the seals had empty stomachs and intestines but all 4 seals were in good nutritional condition with blubber thickness ranging from 1.2 cm to 2.0 cm suggesting a short duration of the pneumonia. Influenza virus was found in the lungs, subtyping is pending.
    At inspection, 12 days later only 1 recently dead seal was found indicating the mortality had peaked within a short time and only within a small geographic area.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalWildlife Disease Association Newsletter
    Issue numberOctober
    Number of pages1
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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