#11: Photo Matchup

Northern fur seals have one of the densest fur coats in the world. There are up to 300,000 hairs per square inch on their bodies. Here are two pictures of the same fur seal, Chainsaw, when she is dry and wet. They look incredibly different sometimes. When they are dry they are so soft and fuzzy, when wet they're smooth and sleek.




#10: Seals at Play

We use a lot of different toys during our play sessions with the seals. Each seal has preferences ... most like fish popsicles, many like to get a water massage from a hose, and others like to swim through bubbles we make in the water. Lana loves to play tug of war. The green rope is a felt-like strip of material used in drive-through car washes. She likes to take it in her mouth and feel it on her face. During this play session the other day we were having a great time until something must have caught her eye and spooked her. Either that or she thought I smelled especially fishy and needed another bath. At any rate she soaked me. It's a good thing it's getting warmer out.




#9: Reggae's Blood Sample

This is a video of Reggae, our 14 year old male Atlantic harbor seal. For the past two years I have been training him to allow us to take a blood sample from his hind flipper during a session. We have tried many methods and have found that, using a butterfly needle, we are more successful at getting a blood sample and the process is less intensive. So this was the training path that he and I took. The video shows the completed behavior where our vet, Charlie, is actually getting a blood sample while Reggae sits on the rocks. When the camera zooms in, you see the blood flowing up the tube attached to the needle. Success! At the end you will see me feeding him a lot of fish. This is called magnitude reinforcement and helps to communicate that he did really well. During sessions like this one, I will give him his entire pouch!



#8: Man Diving

This picture, titled "Man Diving," was created by a 12-year old. Impressed? Now, what if we told you it was created by our 12 year-old male Atlantic harbor seal, Chacoda? Bet you are impressed now. Painting is a behavior that 5 of our 7 harbor seals know and each animal has developed their own unique style. Since seals are colorblind, the trainers will pick out the colors, but the animals create the masterpiece.


#7: Chewie

Seals aren't the only animals found in our Harbor Seal Exhibit. My name is Erin, a marine mammal trainer here at the NEAq. Last December, after doing a routine cleaning dive in the front exhibit, I helped introduce "Chewie" (short for Chewbacca), a 17-pound American lobster into his new home. Harbor seals and lobsters are naturally found in the same waters, so it was no stretch to believe that they would be able to live together here at the NEAq. The 7 Harbor seals at the NEAq have shared space with a number of lobsters over the years (including Luke and Leia), but none as big as Chewie, and while his size may be intimidating to us, everyone is getting along great in the exhibit. You will likely find him on the left side of the exhibit, so be sure to stop and take a look the next time you come by.



#6: Why We Train

Why do we train the seals? That's a question that the marine mammal trainers are asked from time to time. There are lots of reasons why we train. We train so that we can keep these intelligent animals stimulated. They really seem to enjoy learning new behaviors. We train so that we can develop a close, working relationship based on trust. It's this trusting relationship that allows us to work in close proximity to them and touch them so that we, as well as our vet, can check out the condition of their entire body, including their flippers, their fur, their eyes and the inside of their mouths. We also train so that we can provide them with the best medical care possible. Taking blood samples, giving vaccinations, doing x-rays and ultrasounds are some of the important procedures that we need to be able to do. Having the animals cooperate voluntarily in the performance of these procedures minimizes stress. In the coming weeks we'll explain, as well as show you, how and "why" we train the different behaviors that we train.



#5: Sunny Photoshoot

When the harbor seals haul out...

The fur seals relax...

And the trainers wear shorts...

[No picture until we get a little color on our shiny white legs!]



#4: Grooming Video

This video shows an example of grooming. Ursula, one of our female northern fur seals, is showing off her ability to keep her fur coat in great shape. Maintaining your fur takes a lot of effort when you have 300,000 hairs per square inch!


#3: Warm Flippers

Check out this very cool fur seal behavior. It is called jug handling and provides fur seals with a method of regulating their body temperature. The seals have many veins running through their flippers and these veins contain a heated blood supply. By tucking their flippers together, like the above pictures, the seals keep the heat from rapidly leaving their flippers. By stretching their flippers out, into the air, they release heat at a faster pace. In addition to the importance of this behavior, it's also a lot of fun to watch!


#2: Channel 7 Visit

Good afternoon everybody,
My name is Patty and I am one of the marine mammal trainers at the New England Aquarium! We had a very exciting morning at our northern fur seal exhibit today. Dylan Dreyer from Channel 7 News filmed her "Where in
New England?" segment with us! Cordova and Ursula, two of our seals, were featured throughout the news showing off their talents and doing behaviors with Dylan. The animals did an amazing job, especially having to wake up at 5 am! They were superstars through the two hours of filming and never seemed to mind the large camera and lighting that was set up. Great job girls!