It’s always reassuring when airports run smoothly and are attentive to sudden changes within any of its components, but this was especially true for an unlikely airport-goer last month as he made his way to the Wiley Post-Will Rogers Memorial Airport in Alaska. That airport-goer was none other than a seal weighing in at more than 450 pounds, who had somehow found his way onto the airport’s runway and decided that he was there to say.
The first person on the scene that day was Scott Babcock, an airport worker who was called to check out something blocking the runway. Since he gets these calls often, he went to check it out without having very high expectations, but he was pleasantly surprised when he arrived and came across the seal.
“The seal didn’t appear annoyed or alarmed — it just did what seals do,” Babcock told The Dodo.
Though seals are highly intelligent and can be very mischievous and fun-loving, they’re also wild animals that can be a force to be reckoned with—even when they decide to nap in a very inconvenient spot. This particular seal had made its way about a mile away from the nearest ocean, so it’s not common to see seals so far from home, but also not impossible.
“On northern runways we see birds, caribou, polar bears and musk oxen … but not usually seals,” said Meadow Bailey, communications director for the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities.
Babcock observed the seal from afar and said he didn’t really care that he was around, or at least he didn’t seem to. He barely even looked in Babcock’s direction, let alone showed any sign of being frightened when authorities showed up to try and scare him away. The seal settled in comfortably, letting the humans know he was there for the long haul, and prompting them to finally call animal control after several flights had been delayed.
Animal control officers were able to load the easy-going seal onto a sled and pull him off the runway to safety, depositing him in the nearby snow so he could make the trek back to the water. Of course, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities had a nice time posting about the bizarre encounter on Facebook, to which users had punny responses to the ordeal.
“This big guy decided to do a little wintertime sunbathing on the Barrow Airport runway yesterday. #alaskaproblems North Slope Borough Animal Control eventually removed the seal and air traffic was able to resume. Aircraft operators should continue to be aware of low sealings at our North Slope facilities,” the Facebook post read.
“Ouch. His fate was (almost) sealed,” one commenter said.
“No one flies until he puts his seal of approval on the departure times,” another person said.
All-in-all, it was a fun time for those involved and may perhaps be the only time the workers will ever encounter such a situation. While the workers will never forget the hilarious time a heavy seal had to be removed from the premises, hopefully the seal never forgets to avoid the runway in the future.