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Scientists use modern technologies studying insular seals in Kamchatka

01 november 2021
The specialists of Commander Island Reserve supported by WWF-Russia conducted a research to find out migration routes of the local population of insular seals. The scientists also take tissue samples and exam a seal's stomach contents.
The western Pacific harbor seal, or insular seal (Phoca vitulina stejnegeri), is on the Red Data Book of endangered species of Russia. Many insular seals inhabit the Commander Islands where the scientists of the Nature Reserve study their behavior, migration routes, and monitor their number and distribution.
WWF-Russia granted enough financial support to buy six satellite tags. The scientists from the Commander Islands Nature Reserve installed the tags on insular seals to study the direction, distance, and speed of their migrations.
It turned out that insular seals of the Commander Islands prefer to stay close to their homes traveling no further than 20 kilometers away. Scientists assume that such behavior is due to favorable conditions of the waters surrounding the islands: there is a lot of food, many haulouts, and the marine mammals are not disturbed by any large-scale commercial fishing activities.
© The Commander Islands Nature Reserve, Press Office
During the research work, the scientists measured the weight and body length of insular seals, took tissue samples for genetic analysis, and samples of fur and whiskers for heavy metal analysis. The researchers also investigated insular seals' stomach contents to define their food preferences.