Virginia Beach, VA – The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center put down the arctic ice seal to conduct a rabies test after the animal bit a staff member.
Stranding Response Program Coordinator Susan Barco described the bite as a public health issue.
Barco said staff briefly lost control of the seal while they were trying to move the animal, leading to the bite. And although she defended the Aquarium's current handing techniques, Barco said that the staff has little experience with ice seals.
"We've had procedures in the past that we felt were safe for our staff and for the animals. But as we deal with some of these different species, and slightly larger animals, maybe we need to rethink how we handle the animal."
Ironically, the animal's feistiness, including biting, was cited earlier as a good sign for its recovery.
Barco said the only other rescued animal the aquarium has had to kill for a rabies test bit a member of the public, before staff could pick it up.
The Wrightsville Beach seal was the eighth or ninth arctic ice seal discovered on U-S beaches this year. The animals' aren't usually found south of Canada's maritime provinces.