A 450-pound Seal Sunbathing on the Runway Delayed Flights in Alaska
No one flies until they get this animal’s seal of approval.
In truth, wild animal encounters can be a part of everyday life in Alaska, even at the airport. Bears, caribou, and apparently even seals are known to wander onto the runway, causing delays.
Case in point: a 450-pound bearded seal that was caught lounging at the Wiley Post-Will Rogers Memorial Airport at Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow). The Alaska Department of Transportation jokingly warned pilots of "low sealings" at the airport.
Scott Babcock shared a photo and video of the enormous animal lounging away on Facebook, with the caption “FOD” which stands for “Foreign Object Debris.”
The seal was eventually taken off the runway via sled by the North Slope Animal Control.
Meadow Bailey, ADOT communications director, told KTVA that Utqiagvik experienced heavy storms on Monday. The seal was found hanging out on the runway while staff was clearing the runway after the storms had passed.
“Wildlife strikes to aircraft pose a significant safety hazard and cost the aviation industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Birds make up over 90 percent of strikes in the US, while mammal strikes are rare,” said Bailey.
Bailey also added that rural airports as well as public facilities, DOT, and wildlife biologists have been working “to develop and implement plans to manage wildlife hazards.”