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Two Beloved, Original Sea Lions at Oregon Coast Aquarium Pass Away

Published 10/17/20 at 5:44 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Two Beloved, Original Sea Lions at Oregon Coast Aquarium Pass Away

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(Newport, Oregon) – For the second time in about a month, Oregon Coast Aquarium has another death in its family to report. Last month, their beloved sea lion Max passed away after 30 years at the famed Newport attraction. This past week, the aquarium reports Quill passed away, the last surviving sea lion from the original colony at the facility. (Above: Max the sea lion).

Quill and Max were half siblings, the aquarium said. Both were born a few weeks apart at the Chicago Brookfield Zoo, then made their home at the Oregon Coast Aquarium when it opened in 1992. They were both 30 years old at the time of their passing.

“Max was always eager to please his trainers,” said Brittany Blades, Curator of Marine Mammals. “One of his favorite behaviors was fetching toys. Without us asking, he would retrieve toys from the pool and bring them to us and then look at us like he just did the best thing ever and deserved a whole bucket full of fish. He had this look with very sweet brown eyes that felt like he had a deep connection with us staring into our souls. Max was loved not just by all his trainers and guests, but also by all of his sea lion pool mates. Our female sea lions, Catalina and Rosa, would argue over who got to be closest to Max during breeding season. Everyone who has worked with Max has been able to build a strong relationship with him. He will always have a very special place in my heart and many others.”

Quill was known as an energetic crowd pleaser, making extremely large splashes by doing backflips, and then giving the handlers a short bark to let them know she deserved a fish. She was also known for her amiability when meeting guests in person when the aquarium ran the Sea Lion Encounters, where you could get a kiss from a sea lion (before COVID).

“Quill is a testament to how important it is for mammalogists to build a strong relationship with the animals under their care,” Blades said. “Quill would not have been able to have as high quality of life as she had without her trust in her caretakers. She was able to be surrounded by her people as she passed.”

Aquarium spokesman Julia Woodward said Max was showing his age in recent years, but remained perfectly willing and easy-going when it came to medical examinations such as blood draws, X-rays and even chiropractic treatments. Max had recently developed a cough which prompted the staff to take radiographs of his throat, lungs and heart. After radiologists looked at his x-rays, it was recommended they transport him to OSU to get a CT scan. Max was diagnosed with congested heart failure in early October after taking him to Oregon State University for the CT scan and echocardiogram.


As Quill (above) aged into her twenties she developed cataracts and arthritis. Staff monitored her closely. Quill was 27 years old when she started showing signs of pain and decreased mobility.

In the wild, sea lions usually only live into their late teens, maybe early twenties. However, in captivity they live into their later twenties and maybe even early thirties, such as Max and Quill did.

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