Seals Frolic and Entertain for Generations on North Oregon Coast
(Seaside, Oregon) – The Seaside Aquarium has been around a little more than half the time the town of Seaside has been a resort destination on the north Oregon coast, but it's synonymous with the area's beach vacation experience, a kind of staple for generations of visitors. Over 75 years ago the facility opened, in the early 1930’s, a few years after the natatorium that built the building folded. Photo above: Vivian, from Seaside Aquarium.
Shortly after it began, it started featuring harbor seals, and their wacky antics have entertained and amused for decades. It's the festival of insane cuteness that never ends. They’re not the only exhibit at the aquarium, but they're probably the centerpiece.
There are eleven harbor seals at the Seaside Aquarium. The oldest is Drexler, at 27 – named after the Trailblazer player. He’s the oldest male the aquarium has ever had, although they did have a female named Clara who lived to 35 back in the 70’s. There are still signs inside the aquarium referring to her and her not-so-intact eyes. As she got older she had more and more eye problems.
The two youngest seals are four years old: Vivian and Shireen.
Part of the fun here is getting a little box of fish for a buck and then tossing them to the seals, who do any number of things to get your attention. Each does a different trick to catch the eye of those feeding them fish.
All these slippery critters have their own personalities, and they react differently to different employees. From loud, barking noises that sound a little like zombies to their bouncy antics in the water, they are an endless kick in the pants to watch.
Seaside Aquarium educator Tiffany Boothe said these are not trained into these wacky mammals, it’s just something they learn to do on their own.
“These hams really enjoy what they are doing and have developed their tricks on their own,” Boothe said. “Each seal has a distinct personality.”
There’s Cosmo, born in ’99. If she was named after the Seinfeld character it's unclear, but she’s about as amusing at times. She’s known for nodding her head towards food as if to instruct the public, and for twirling.
Greta was born in 1996 and utilizes different ways of getting attention. “Two of her favorites are clapping her side and slapping her chest against the ramp,” Boothe said.
Reagan, born in 2004 and named after the former president, is the firebrand of the bunch, known for soaking visitors to get attention by making really big splashes. She's referred to as a troublemaker.
Scully was born in 1998 and is of course named after the X-Files character. “Scully will open and close her mouth continuously in an attempt to grab your attention,” Boothe said.
Vivian was born in '06 and likes to splash the water and smack her sides to get attention. She apparently lacks the precision Reagan has with this, but still soaks visitors at times.
Seals are actually fed on a regular schedule, so this begging is not how they get their main sustenance. And unlike many humans, they know when they’ve had enough – they simply stop eating. It means they may not always be in a fish-munching mood when you show up.
At night, they’re herded out of the main tank in the front and into the back, where they rest or party like seals do into the dawn – whatever they want. They prefer a dry area for sleeping at night, so they have both a pool and dry area in the back.
All the seals were born there at the aquarium and not brought in from anywhere around the Oregon coast. It's hard to gauge with certainty, but it appears as if the Seaside Aquarium was the first to successfully breed them in captivity, sometime in the 50’s.
They live around 20 years in captivity, and less in the wild.
Seaside Aquarium is on the Promenade in Seaside, Oregon. 503-738-6211. www.seasideaquarium.com
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