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Seal pup

Seal Pup Update: July 9
Seal pupAs of today, the pup weighs 40.5 pounds and is doing well. For his age, this is a good and safe weight. He is no longer being assist-fed by zookeepers. As live fish are added to his off-exhibit pool, he’s showing a huge interest in them, although he hasn’t eaten any just yet.

We’re happy to announce the seal pup has been named Bosco! The name was chosen through online voting on the Zoo’s Facebook page. It’s a strong name for a tough little pup.

Bosco has starting eating fish, as of July 15. Thanks to all our keepers and veterinary staff who helped Bosco through a difficult first couple of months.


Posted July 2020

On June 3, one of the Zoo’s female harbor seals, Sydney, gave birth to a male seal pup. It is the fifth offspring in the past seven years for Sydney and her male companion, Ringo. Sadly, 24-year-old Sydney died unexpectedly on June 6.

Preliminary necropsy results for Sydney revealed a systemic infection – an infection which begins in one area and then moves to the bloodstream, affecting the entire body. Complete necropsy results are pending. The pup, who is not yet named, is being hand-raised, receiving care and assist-feeding from zookeepers and animal care staff.

At 3 days old, the pup weighed ~24.2 pounds, and on June 23, he weighed ~37.4 pounds. Keepers are assist-feeding the pup five times daily with a milk replacer formula made specifically for marine mammals which includes a high fat content and vitamins. Normally, harbor seals nurse 4-6 weeks before weaning. In the meantime, finely ground fish is gradually being added to the formula. As of June 23, in addition to the formula feedings, the pup has been introduced to live fish to pique his natural instincts.

For now, he seems more interested in playing with the fish and has not started eating them on his own. With previous pup births, keepers initiated a similar process to wean the seals from their mother’s milk to a diet of fish. Sometimes keepers play with the fish with the youngster or place it in ice chunks or toys to entice the pup. Eventually his natural instincts will take over and he’ll eat fish on his own. Zoo veterinarians say his bloodwork and overall health appear good.

For socialization, at a few weeks old, he was introduced to the Zoo’s 5-year-old female, Cossette, in an off-exhibit area. There, he has access to a plastic kid’s pool filled with toys, an off-exhibit holding pool where he can swim and chase fish, and a dry area where he sleeps. Often, he sleeps near his “neo-mommy” a specially made maternal substitute consisting of a plastic tube inside of a wetsuit he’s had access to, if necessary, for comfort. One of his favorite toys appears to be a red Frisbee.

Keepers continue to monitor the pup closely in the off-exhibit areas. It will be several weeks before introductions start with the other seals, which include 2-year-old Milo, and 42-year-old Ringo. First, keepers will begin his training program to teach him to respond to cues to eventually become a “strong and reliable” seal.

Sydney with pup, Milo
Sydney with pup, Milo, in 2018.

Harbor seal Sydney arrived at the Milwaukee County Zoo in 2005 from the Alaska Sea Life Center where she was rescued as an orphan pup in 1996. Over the years, she voluntarily cooperated with her keepers as they conducted many ultrasounds, without the need for anesthesia. Her offspring became a part of the managed breeding programs within the Harbor Seal Species Survival® Plan (SSP). Keepers comment she was extremely smart, and through training sessions, taught them how to be patient, calm and reliable. Sydney’s steadiness and direction helped a young Cossette settle into her new home when she first arrived, and her intelligence was also instrumental in retrieving a dropped keeper cell phone from the bottom of the pool.

She will be missed by her keepers and visitors.

Video: Milwaukee County Zoo Harbor Seal Pup

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