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Aloha to the mystery seal found thousands of miles from home

Lost Seal

AP Photo/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

A northern fur seal is seen in a cage in Haleiwa, Hawaii. Northern fur seals live in waters around the Aleutian Islands and California, but NOAA officials found an emaciated, underweight and weak member of the species thousands of miles away on Oahu's North Shore.

Like many who stray from California, a lost northern fur seal has been found resting on a beach in Hawaii.

Not as glamorous as it sounds, the seal — typically found in waters around the Aleutian Islands and California — was discovered thousands of miles from home, emaciated and weak on the sand near Sunset Beach on Oahu's North Shore.

Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) took the young adult female to the Honolulu Zoo to be cared for and to prevent a potential health risk to Hawaii's endangered monk seals. The native seal population has never been exposed to viruses that fur seals are known to carry.

David Schofield, a NOAA marine mammal response coordinator, said it's the first time on record that a wild fur seal has come to Hawaii. Elephant seals have made their way over from California in the past, but only very rarely, Schofield said.

It's not clear how the industrious explorer got so far south. Theories range from cargo ship stowaway, to riding tsunami debris, to being swept away in a strange current.

NOAA officials hope to send the northern fur seal to the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, Calif., which has extensive experience nursing sick and injured seals back to health.

Jeffrey Boehm, the center's executive director, said the hope is to return the seal to the wild. "We'll do our very best to provide it with the best care that we can," he said.

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