As Como Harbor prepares for its public opening, two Atlantic gray seals have taken up residence behind-the-scenes
Como Zoo has a long history of providing safe harbor to injured and rehabilitated marine mammals, and with the opening of Como Harbor this spring, the zoo is making room for two more: Stanley and Wallace, a young pair of Atlantic gray seals, who recently arrived at Como from the east coast.
“Both of them have limited vision and issues with their eyes that made them poor candidates for being released back to the wild,” says Senior Keeper Allison Jungheim, who traveled to Connecticut’s Mystic Aquarium recently to collect Como Harbor’s two newest residents. Both seals had been taken in by the aquarium’s Aquatic Rescue Program, which answers more than 150 rescue calls every year to provide support and veterinary care to animals that have been stranded along a 1,000 mile coastline between Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York. While keepers don’t know for certain why the young seals were stranded, Stanley bears a significant scar around his neck, most likely from being entangled in a fishing net.
“Fortunately, we have a track record of caring for seals and sea lions with special needs, so I think they’re going to be pretty comfortable in their new home,” says Jungheim, adding that she’s looking forward to watching the two young seals grow. “Atlantic gray seals are an interesting species with a great conservation story, and once they’re full grown, they can weigh between 500 and 800 pounds.”
Before the pair dives into Como Harbor, they’ll take part in a series of introductions that keepers call “howdies” to build familiarity and trust between all the residents of the new habitat. “The fact that these two came from the wild makes their genetic lines really valuable, so it would be great if we could make some magic happen by bringing in a female seal at some point,” says Jungheim. “But right now we’re really pleased by how this is going. Seals are generally pretty laid back and mellow, so we’re expecting these two to fit right in.”
Stanley and Wallace will join a crew of six resident pinnipeds at Como Zoo—sea lions Subee, CeCe, Niko and Poppy, and harbor seals Kash and Killian. All three species will have plenty of room to swim, bask and frolic in the expansive new four-season saltwater pools created for Como Harbor, a $20 million habitat made possible by the taxpayers of Minnesota and private contributions to Como Friends.
“Como Harbor will really elevate the care Como’s keepers can provide to seals like Stanley and Wallace, with great behind-the-scenes animal husbandry areas,” says Como Friends president Jackie Sticha. “And Como’s visitors will also get a chance to see these animals in a whole new way, with underwater viewing areas, and an expansive new amphitheater which brings people even closer to marine mammals.”
Como Friends will be hosting a series of low-capacity previews and sneak peaks of the new habitat for supporters in May, just prior to the public opening of the habitat in June. Watch your inbox for updates and invitations to meet Stanley, Wallace and all of the residents of Como’s splashiest habitat.