Alaska SeaLife Center Admits Harbor Seal Pup from Haines
May 11, 2020

Seward, Alaska (May 11, 2020) – The Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) admitted a female harbor seal pup into their Wildlife Response Program on May 4.
On May 3, the pup was found near a ferry terminal in Haines, Alaska by Haines Animal Rescue Kennel. The organization responded appropriately by contacting ASLC and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) first before moving the pup. After NOAA approval was received, the seal was transported safely to ASLC the following day. This pup was the second harbor seal the team attempted to rescue from Haines over the course of just two days. The first pup passed before arriving at the Center.
When the surviving pup entered ASLC’s Wildlife Response Program , the staff were immediately surprised to see she was very small, only 12 lbs, and had full lanugo. Lanugo is the soft fur on newborn pups. While ice seals are typically born with lanugo, it is rare harbor seals are born with it. “This may be the smallest harbor seal I have seen. Because of her size, lanugo, and various exam and diagnostic results, we believe she is only a few days old and premature,” declared Director of Animal Health, Dr. Carrie Goertz, D.V.M.
The immaturity of this seal’s immune system due to her premature birth signals to staff that she has a long road to recovery. According to veterinary staff, while she had no physical trauma upon admission, she had obvious respiratory and cardiovascular issues. With her health issues, just seeing her make it through the first night was uplifting for the team. “Her situation is critical though she does seem to be getting stronger,” states Wildlife Response Curator, Jane Belovarac.
Caring for wildlife response patients while under unusual regulations due to COVID-19 is more complicated for the staff. “It requires us to be more thoughtful and efficient when more than one person is needed to accomplish procedures. We all wear masks, plan a lot in advance, and move apart as soon as possible,” explains Dr. Goertz. Since COVID-19 is affecting operations, the Center is assessing stranding events on a case-by-case basis to ensure staff safety. As always, ASLC encourages people to call first if they find a marine animal in distress.
The Alaska SeaLife Center is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization and the only permitted marine mammal rehabilitation center in Alaska. Over 80% of the funding for ASLC’s Wildlife Response Program comes from charitable donations. The Center is thankful for individual donors and organizations like Marathon Petroleum Corporation, SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, BP Alaska, ConocoPhillips Alaska, PetZoo, GCI, HDR Marine, and Graphic Works whose generous support helps ASLC care for marine mammals like harbor seals.
About the ASLC
Opened in 1998, the Alaska SeaLife Center operates as a 501(c)(3), non-profit research institution and public aquarium in Seward, Alaska. The Center generates and shares scientific knowledge to promote understanding and stewardship of Alaska’s marine ecosystems. The ASLC is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. To learn more, visit

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