Bayview Beach in Saco. Credit: Josh and Melanie Rosenthal | Creative Commons 2.0

Eleven dead seals were discovered on Saco beaches Monday morning, leaving local officials bewildered, the Journal Tribune reported.

Saco Parks and Recreation Department Director Ryan Sommer told the newspaper that 10 of the animals were pups while one was an adult. Most of them — eight — were found at Kinney Shores, while the other three were discovered at Bayview Beach, he said.

The 11 seals found dead in Saco came in addition to many more that were found on beaches in Wells and Ogunquit — totaling more than 30 dead seals over about a two-day span, Lynda Doughty, executive director of the rescue group Marine Mammals of Maine, told the Portland Press Herald.

A Marine Mammals of Maine representative inspected the seals, Sommer said, but he added that it was unlikely they would be able to determine a cause of death and none of the bodies were saved for testing. Saco public works crews disposed of the seals, Sommer told the Journal Tribune.

The seals were washed ashore along with heavy amounts of seaweed, Sommer said, and as there was no storm offshore, town officials are unsure what caused the numerous seal deaths or heavy seaweed.

Just more than a week earlier, a baby seal battling a respiratory infection was found on Long Sands Beach in York. The animal was taken to the Marine Mammals of Maine’s facility in Harpswell, where it is currently receiving treatments.

The organization told NECN that it is seeing a significant increase in the number of distressed seals along the Maine coast, having treated about 60 so far this year, compared to about 40 in 2017. Marine Mammals of Maine, which runs entirely on donations for its operating costs, told the regional news network that it has already spent its full animal care budget for the year.

In June, the Newport Daily News in Rhode Island reported that six seals washed up dead on Sachuest Beach, the first time a dead seal had been found there in three years.

A significant seal die-off in New England was previously seen in the fall of 2011, when 162 seals — about three to four times the normal number — washed up dead between Massachusetts in Maine, according to the Associated Press. Those deaths were attributed to an outbreak of an avian flu, H3N8, that made the jump to seals through bird guano.

The Associated Press reported that various influenza viruses had been tied to at least three other seal die-offs along the coast of New England dating back to 1979 as well.

Featured image from Josh and Melanie Rosenthal used under Creative Commons license 2.0.

Follow the Bangor Daily News on Facebook for the latest Maine news.

Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.