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Avian flu is contributing to a high number of seal deaths in Maine

Avian Flu Seals
Robert F. Bukaty
A harbor seal pokes its head out of the water in Casco Bay, Thursday, July 30, 2020, off Portland, Maine.

An elevated number of stranded seals in Maine is being linked to avian flu.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that most of the seals are found dead, and federal labs have confirmed highly pathogenic avian influenza in four samples.

So far this year, 71 seals have been found stranded in Maine, which NOAA says is three times higher than usual. The agency says it's working daily with its local partner, Marine Mammals of Maine, as well as state and federal partners, on the situation.

People and pets should not approach sick, injured, or dead seals, but are urged to call the Maine Marine Animal Reporting Hotline, (800) 532-9551.

The last unusual seal mortality event in southern Maine was in 2018, when distemper caused a rash of deaths.