(Meredith) -- A monk seal in Hawaii got caught in a sticky situation when researchers found an eel stuck in its nose Monday.
The photo was released by the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program (HMSRP). On its website, the program said in its nearly 40 years of existence, researchers have only started to see eels in seal's noses the last few years. The program said its researchers have seen it happen three or four times now.
"We don't know if this is just some strange statistical anomaly or if we will see more eels in seals in the future," HMSRP said on its website.
Hawaiian monk seals forage by shoving their mouth and nose into the crevasses of coral reefs, under rocks or into the sand. They are looking for hidden prey, such as eels. HMSRP said in this case, the eel could have been trying to escape or defend itself and ended up in the seal's nose. Another possibility is that the seal swallowed the eel and regurgitated it so that the eel came out the wrong way.
The situation was spotted quickly by researchers and the eel was gently and successfully removed. HMSRP said all seals that have been in this situation have shown no signs of problems from the incidents.
However, in all cases, the eels did not live, according to HMSRP's Facebook post.
HMSRP's website said the program "works to enhance the recovery of the endangered Hawaiian monk seal by studying their biology, ecology and natural history. The HMSRP monitors and assesses the six main monk seal reproductive subpopulations in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) as well as the increasing subpopulation in the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI)."