Wildlife employee injured in monk seal attack off Midway Atoll

File photo of two Hawaiian monk seals at Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee was injured by a Hawaiian monk seal while swimming laps within the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

It happened on Thursday, July 6, off North Beach at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, two employees were swimming laps off a section of beach that was open for use to those who work on the atoll.

A portion of the beach 500 yards to the west of where they entered had been closed for several weeks due to the presence of a monk seal and her pup.

Officials say the employees were swimming in the opposite direction of the closed portion of beach, and did not know that the monk seal and her pup had also entered the area where they were swimming.

Officials say the mother surfaced between the two swimmers, pursued one of the employees, and bit the employee several times. The employee was treated at Midway Atoll and is recovering from the injuries.

The other employee, officials say, was able to exit the water without incident.

Neither the monk seal nor her pup was harmed during the encounter. The section of the beach the employees were swimming at was closed immediately after the incident to give the monk seal and her pup plenty of additional room.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the employees followed the appropriate safety protocols and precautions.

The beach they were using was open and initially there were no monk seals visibly present in the water. Once they were confronted by the monk seal and her pup, they followed the recommended protocols and swam away from the animals and back toward the beach.

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