OK it's not really called a panda seal. But it should be! It's actually a ribbon seal, and it seems to have taken a wrong turn and paused for a nap on the dock of a Seattle-woman's riverside home.
I love her calm reaction: "I thought, 'That's an interesting-looking creature.'" Perhaps interesting creatures appear on her dock often? Personally I would have been jumping up and down like a kid who discovered a giant seal reclining in front of her house. The woman lives about a mile from the mouth of the Duwamish River, an area that was named a Superfund site in 2001. Above is the seal in its natural habitat, see it on the woman's dock here.
Conservationists have tried to get the ribbon seal named as an endangered species, but since they spend most of their time swimming in the waters off Alaska and Russia, they're difficult to count and the government hasn't agreed to list them yet.
Apparently this is only the second time on record a ribbon seal has made an appearance so far south. Maybe because of the amazingly snowy and frigid weather Seattle has had lately?
In 1962, a ribbon seal showed up on a beach near Morro Bay, Calif., a town about 200 miles north of Los Angeles. According to contemporary reports, the seal was in good shape, but totally bald except for hair on the head, neck and flippers. It died a month later at the local aquarium.
Hopefully this one will have a better fate. Officials say the seal looked to be in fine shape based on the woman's photo, but the creature swam off and no one has seen him since.
Image of seal in wild: CC Commons Licensed Flickr/NOAA Photo Library; seal on dock: LDA