Alaska SeaLife Center

Blind Harbor Seal Finding New Cues


The Alaska SeaLife Center is currently caring for a blind Harbor Seal. He was the last Harbor Seal pup rescue of 2014, after being found at Land's End in Homer, AK. 



10849004_10152576752791471_7789255383258217104_oPhoto Credits: Alaska SeaLife Center

Because of his blindness, the pup, named ‘Bryce’, has been deemed non-releasable by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-National Marine Fisheries Service. Veterinary staff believe he suffered head trauma that was the likely cause of his vision loss.

While Harbor Seals are normally quite shy and skittish, staff have been pleasantly surprised by Bryce's spirit of adventure. He is quick to explore pools, enrichment items, and other changes to his environment. Staff utilize Bryce's inquisitive nature and heightened reliance on sound when teaching him husbandry behaviors, such as hand-feeding and targeting.

Since he cannot see, staff rattle a "shaker" in place of a target buoy. This allows Bryce to use audio cues rather than the customary visual cue. These behaviors help Bryce in adjusting to environmental changes and make veterinary exams easier.

Continue reading "Blind Harbor Seal Finding New Cues" »

Another Stellar Sea Lion Pup For Parents Woody and Eden


It's a boy!! The Alaska SeaLife Center is pleased to announce the birth of a male Steller Sea Lion pup at 12:14 pm on July 20, 2014. Parents are 14-year-old mother, Eden, and 21-year-old father, Woody. Eden and pup are healthy and doing well. The pup is not expected to be available for public viewing for a few months.
Eden and Woody became parents last summer with the birth of Ellie on June 20, 2013. Ellie marked the first Steller Sea Lion pup born in North American collections since the mid 1980s. 
10572058_10152212168046471_3278751748280155667_oPhoto credits: Alaska SeaLife Center
For almost 10 years, Steller Sea Lion research has continued to be one of the largest research focuses at the Alaska SeaLife Center. It is no wonder either—Steller Sea Lion populations in western and south-central Alaska are still below historic numbers, have not fully recovered from significant population declines, and remain listed as endangered on the Federal Endangered Species List. It is not only important to study this species to ensure their survival, but to also learn more about the marine ecosystems in which they inhabit, and how they adapt to environmental change.

Continue reading "Another Stellar Sea Lion Pup For Parents Woody and Eden" »

Orphaned Fur Seal on Track at Alaska SeaLife Center


An orphaned Northern Fur Seal left in a box outside the Alaska Department of Fish and Game offices is on track despite a rough start in life.



Photo Credit:  Alaska SeaLife Center

The Stranding Team at Alaska SeaLife Center took in the newborn Seal, who weighed only 9.5 pounds, on July 24.  A note on the box said that the pup’s mother had died giving birth.  The pup, named Chiidax by the staff, was underweight and dehydrated.

Today, Chiidax weighs 18 pounds and weaned at four months old, which is right on target for a wild Fur Seal.  Chiidax now enjoys whole fish rather than formula.

Now that Chiidax is weaned, he’s also molted his dark pup coat and sports the cream and brown coat of a young juvenile.

Northern Fur Seals inhabit the Pacific Coast of the United States, the Bering Sea, and the coast of the Russian Far East.  As a male Fur Seal, Chiidax is destined to weigh about 590 pounds (270 kg) when full grown.  Male Fur Seals weigh four to five times as much as females.  Northern Fur Seals are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

See more photos of Chiidax below the fold.

Continue reading "Orphaned Fur Seal on Track at Alaska SeaLife Center" »

Thousands of Giant Pacific Octopus Eggs Hatch at Alaska SeaLife Center

ASLC_2013_Lulu Paralarvae 4

A wondrous spectacle of nature began unfolding on March 6 at the Alaska SeaLife Center: LuLu, a Giant Pacific Octopus, has been tenderly guarding her brood of eggs, which she began laying in March 2012. Now, over a year later, tiny hatchlings known as paralarvae have begun to emerge, and the baby Octopuses are captivating visitors and staff. 

LuLu laid eggs throughout the spring of 2012 after an encounter the previous fall with Felix, a male Giant Pacific Octopus. A female will lay up to 30,000 eggs only once in her lifetime, and she will brood and guard the eggs until they hatch. A male may mate with several females but will expire following this reproductive period. Lulu's lifespan will end when the last of her eggs hatch.

ASLC_2013_Lulu Paralarvae 2

ASLC_2013_Lulu Paralarvae

ASLC_2013_Lulu Paralarvae 3

Photo Credit:  Alaska SeaLife Center

"LuLu is not feeding at this time but continues to groom and fan the eggs as attentive Octopus mothers do in this final reproductive phase of their lives," said Richard Hocking, the Center’s aquarium curator. 

While other Octopus species are frequently raised from eggs in aquariums, that is not the case with the Giant Pacific Octopus. Only once, in the mid-1980s, has a Giant Pacific Octopus been successfully reared from egg to maturity in an aquarium. Giant Pacific Octopuses are difficult to rear due to the delicate nature of the newly-emerged paralarvae and their unique nutritional needs. To increase the odds of raising the hatchlings to adulthood, aquarium staff are harvesting both wild and cultured zooplankton to feed the paralarval Octopuses and have also constructed special rearing tanks.

In the wild, the tiny hatchlings, which are about the size of a grain of rice, swim toward the ocean surface and can spend several weeks or even months drifting in the plankton-rich water until they are large enough to hunt in the depths. Once they settle to the bottom, juveniles take refuge in crevices and under rocks, where they are protected from predators while they feed and mature. Octopuses eat crustaceans and mollusks along with other bivalves, snails, fish and smaller Octopuses.

As adults, Giant Pacific Octopuses live in the cold waters of the northern Pacific Ocean off the coasts of Canada, Alaska, Japan, and Siberia at depths of over 200 feet (65 m).  Adults attain an arm span of up to 14 feet (4.3 m) and weigh about 33 pounds (15 kg).  They are considered the largest of all Octopus species.   Little is known about these animals in the wild, so they are not protected by international treaties.

Alaska SeaLife Center Rehabs Baby Otter For New Home at Vancouver Aquarium

Otter CU

This orphaned female Sea Otter pup was rescued off the side of a road by Alaska SeaLife Center volunteers on October 19, 2012, after efforts to locate her mother were unsuccessful and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorized the intervention.The pup was immediately transferred to its I.Sea.U. critical care unit in Seward, Alaska for emergency treatment. She was estimated to be approximately eight weeks old when found, and was deemed non-releasable by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service due to the maternal care required by young otters.

She has just been transferred from the Alaska SeaLife Center to its new permanent home at the Vancouver Aquarium, which will allow the pup to receive the ongoing care and companionship she needs. Described as playful, and sometimes mischievous, she has adjusted well and soon will be introduced to Tanu and Elfin -- two Sea Otters who were also found stranded as pups and rescued by the Alaska SeaLife Center in years past.


Otter look

Otter side

Photo Credit: Alaska SeaLife Center

Local students from the Alaska SeaLife Center’s Ocean Sciences Club provided three possible Alaskan names for the baby Otter: Susitna, Katmaiand Glacier. The final choice will be made through a voting contest held by the Vancouver Aquarium. 

Learn more of this story of teamwork below the fold:

Continue reading "Alaska SeaLife Center Rehabs Baby Otter For New Home at Vancouver Aquarium" »

Orphaned Walrus Calves are Home at Last

Mitik 1 Sybille Castro

The dramatic journey of two male Pacific Walrus calves, found stranded this summer near Barrow, Alaska, made a huge leap forward this week when they arrived at their new permanent homes – the  Indianapolis Zoo and the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium. 

The touching stories of Mitik and Pakak, each just a few months old, began when they were found alone and suffering from dehydration on separate occasions in late July.  The tale of their rescue and rehabilitation at the Alaska SeaLife Center was first chronicled by ZooBorns on July 27 and their progress updated on August 10.  Readers around the world were captivated by the way the calves immediately bonded with their caregivers through touching and snuggling. 

580834_10151067718811471_595785728_nAlaska Sea Life Center

MitikPakak (2) Shauna Gallagher

Pakak indy


Walrus are very tactile and social animals, and the dedicated staff and caretakers at the SeaLife Center provided the social interaction that the calves needed. Walrus calves almost immediately adjust to human care, so they are not candidates for release back into the wild. 

Because the SeaLife Center is it not large enough to permanently house all the wildlife it rescues, Pakak moved last week to the Indianapolis Zoo and Mitik traveled to the New York Aquarium.  The staffs at each institution are understandably thrilled with their new arrivals, but fans will have to wait awhile to see the new calves:  both will undergo a routine quarantine period, with numerous health checks, before being introduced to the adult Walruses living at each zoo.  It may be several months before the calves are seen by the public.

The 24-hour care the calves received at the Alaska SeaLife Center continues in their new homes, fulfilling their nutritional and social needs until they are introduced to their new companions.  In Indianapolis, Patak will join longtime zoo resident Aurora; Mitik will share the New York Aquarium’s exhibit with Kulu, age 17, and Nuka, age 30.

Both calves were in poor health at the timke of their rescue, but have steadily improved during their rehabilitation period.  The calves currently weigh about 240 pounds, and as adults they could weigh more than 1,500 pounds. 

Walruses face environmental threats in their Arctic habitat. Because of the lack of suitable ice, more and more Walruses are congregating on land. Overcrowding in these areas may play a role in spreading disease among populations.

Photo Credits (top to bottom):  Sybille Castro; Alaska SeaLife Center; Shauna Gallagher, Indianapolis Zoo; Indianapolis Zoo

Checking-in on Orphan Baby Walrus in I.Sea.U

20120809_Walrus ISeaU-0031

Two weeks ago we brought you the touching story of an orphaned Pacific Walrus calf rescued, cared for and comforted at Alaska SeaLife Center. Today we check back-in on the 275 lb. toddler and see he is making good progress and enjoying playtime in his pool. This calf also marks the first patient in Alaska SeaLife Center's newest animal care area,  the I.Sea.U critical care unit.

On June 8, the I.Sea.U was officially opened during World Oceans Day festivities as a nursery for stranded Sea Otters. Since no live Sea Otters were admitted to the stranding program this summer, the I.Sea.U remained unoccupied until now. “We prepared first for our most common species requiring intensive care, the Northern Sea Otter. Readying the space to house walrus had been planned for Phase 2 this coming winter, but we’ve gotten there more quickly with this pressing need,” said Brett Long, the Center’s husbandry director. The new unit will also have dedicated staff support and is physically separated from the other established stranding areas of the building.

20120809_Walrus ISeaU-0072

20120809_Walrus ISeaU-0052

Great video of the Pacific Walrus calf rocking out in his pool

The unit was made possible through the generous donations from Barbara Weinig, the MK LeLash Foundation, ConocoPhillips, the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, and the Minnesota Zoo. The Alaska SeaLife Center is the only permanent marine rehabilitation center in Alaska responding to stranded marine mammals. The Center responded to four stranded walrus calves between 2003 and 2007, but this year’s calves are the first walrus admitted in the last five years.

20120809_Walrus ISeaU-0506

Once a stranded marine mammal is admitted to the ASLC, it receives care from an experienced and dedicated veterinary and animal care staff. The Alaska SeaLife Center operates a 24-hour hotline for the public to report stranded marine mammals or birds, and encourages people who have found a stranded or sick marine animal to avoid touching or approaching the animal; instead, those individuals should call 1-888-774- SEAL (7325).

Orphan Walrus Comforted at Alaska SeaLife Center

20120722_Walrus arrival-0293

This past Saturday, local fisherman spotted an orphan Pacific Walrus calf on floating ice near Barrow, Alaska. After a period of observation from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a rescue was approved and Alaska SeaLife Center staff and a local veterinarian prepared the 200lb. baby for airlift to Anchorage and transport by modified truck to ASLC in Seward. 

The calf is suckling readily from a bottle, feeding every three hours around the clock, and consuming nearly 1,400 calories at each feed. He is actively seeking attention from care-givers, and vocalizing when left alone. “Walrus are incredibly tactile, social animals,” said Stranding Coordinator Tim Lebling.  “Walrus calves typically spend about two years with their mothers, so we have to step in to provide that substitute care and companionship.”  Walrus calves almost immediately habituate to human care and therefore are not candidates for release following rehabilitation.


20120722_Walrus arrival-0309


The video below is one of the most touching ZooBorns has had the privilige to share

The calf appears to be in good condition; however, Center veterinarians have identified and are addressing some health concerns while performing additional diagnostic testing to better understand his condition. If you would like to contribute to this calf's care, you can do so here

More photos and information below the fold

Continue reading "Orphan Walrus Comforted at Alaska SeaLife Center" »

Marine Mammal Experts Work Round-the-Clock to Save Orphan Baby Beluga

Alaska SeaLife Center Bottlefeeding 2b

Four accredited U.S. aquariums have come together in an effort to save a newborn Beluga whale calf which was found stranded in South Naknek, Alaska last week - this is the first time in history that a live calf has been found and rescued in U.S. waters. Marine mammal experts with a combined 125 years of experience from Shedd Aquarium, SeaWorld and Georgia Aquarium immediately answered the Alaska SeaLife Center’s call for assistance to provide around-the-clock care for the calf during this rehabilitation period. The male, 112-pound calf is touch-and-go at this point and considered in critical condition – especially due to his immature immune system, and remains under 24-hour observation.

This is a great example of how the aquarium community comes together to work collaboratively in order do what’s best for an animal in need.

Alaska SeaLife Center Baby Beluga 1

DSCN0923Photo credits 1 and 2 and video: Alaska SeaLife Center. Photo 3: Provided by Shedd Aquarium featuring SeaWorld's Bill Winhall and Shedd Aquarium's Lisa Takaki

Stranded Seal Pup, Probably a Preemie, Gets a New Lease on Life!


Meet Olympia. On May 2nd, this young Harbor Seal was found stranded in Haines, AK. Haines Animal Rescue Center quickly got authorization to rescue her after searching the area for other seals. Olympia then made a last minute flight to Juneau where veterinarian Rachael Berngartt, D.V.M. stabilized her for further transport to Alaska Sealife Center.

Olympia has a white lanugo coat, an indication that she was born prematurely. Tim Lebling, ASLC Stranding Coordinator, stated, “It is likely that Olympia was abandoned by her mother, as we commonly find that seals abandon their premature pups.”  Olympia is currently in “good but guarded” condition, and will be cared for until she can be released back into the wild. She ASLC's first stranded Seal in 2012.



Photo and Video Credits: Alaska SeaLife Center

Olympia is currently being fed five times a day with a milk matrix created specifically for harbor seals that contains all of the nutrients and calories she needs to grow.  

Read more about Olympia and see more pictures beneath the fold...

Continue reading "Stranded Seal Pup, Probably a Preemie, Gets a New Lease on Life!" »