Friday, August 9, 2013

A Second Fur Seal Pup Born at the Aquarium!

Update: See the pup live online during an upcoming Google+ Hangout on Air! Details.

As if the New England Aquarium doesn’t have enough to be excited about this summer, there’s a fuzzy new addition to its family of Northern fur seals. On Tuesday night just before midnight, the Aquarium’s overnight engineer realized that Ursula, a 15-year-old fur seal, was in labor. She immediately notified Kathy Streeter, the Aquarium’s marine mammal curator, who arrived shortly after to find that Ursula had given birth to her second pup.

Here is the very first video to be release of the new pup!

“I could hear Ursula calling as I walked down the hallway,” said Streeter. “I thought she was still in labor, but when I entered I saw the pup laying a foot or so away from Ursula. Shortly thereafter, the pup and Ursula called to each other, but Ursula seemed exhausted and lay on her side so that the baby could find her and nurse.” 

The trainers have not gotten close enough to the new pup to determine its sex.

According to Streeter, it was evident that the pair had bonded quite well overnight and were calling back and forth to each other the next morning, typical to what Northern fur seals practice in the wild. While Ursula has been very tolerant of the trainers near her pup, the sex and weight of the newborn has yet to be determined. The trainers are grateful that the mother has let them get so close and do not want to break that trust by handling the pup too soon.

Ursula and the pup frequently nuzzle and call out for each other. They are in a private space behind the scenes. 

“We are just happy the pup is healthy, and we are looking forward to finding out whether the pup is male or female,” said Streeter.

The New England Aquarium’s New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center, an open-air exhibit space with expansive views of Boston Harbor, is home to the largest collection of the rare Northern fur seals in North America. With its committed breeding program, the Aquarium’s goal is to continue to expand the program in partnership with zoos and aquariums around the country.

Isaac, the proud father
The newborn pup’s father, Isaac, who weighs around 500 pounds and is 13 years old, came from the Seattle Aquarium. Ursula, who weighs 97 pounds, was brought to Boston from the New York Aquarium. The mother of two demonstrated great maternal instincts with her first pup, Flaherty, who was born in July 2012. Flaherty, an energetic 45-pound pup, has excelled in his training sessions, mastering a flipper lift and a full-circle spin.

Flaherty, Isaac and Ursula's first pup, turned 1 last month

The newest pup will not be visible to the public while it spends time behind the scenes nursing and bonding with its mother. Within two weeks, Ursula will return to the exhibit for short periods, alternating between swimming in the large exhibit pool and spending time with her pup. The as-of-yet unnamed pup will join the other fur seals and sea lions in the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center sometime in early fall.

Northern fur seals are characterized by their thick fur coat which keeps them warm in the cold waters of the Northern Pacific. Although they were once hunted for their pelts, Northern fur seals are now protected under the Marine Mammal Protection act as a depleted species. The world population of this vulnerable species has continued to decline since then for reasons that are unclear.

More to explore:
Want to really get to know a Northern fur seal or Atlantic harbor seal? Try a Take a Dip with a Seal program!


  1. Congratulations! But, aren't these sea lions? They have ear flaps and can walk on with their hind flippers...?

    1. Very observant! But these are in fact Northern fur seals, not to be confused with the sea lions also on exhibit at the marine mammal center. Fur seals look a lot like sea lions and have almost the same physical characteristics, except they don't have all that blubber to help keep them warm. They have, you guessed it, fur! Both sea lions and fur seals are in the same family and referred to as "eared seals."

    2. Interesting. I also thought that they were sea lions. Didn't know about fur seals til now.


  2. Issac weighs 500 lbs and Ursula weighs 97 lbs?! That is some size differential!

  3. Congratulations! How exciting! So happy that mother and pup are doing well. I look forward to seeing mom and baby this fall. Name ideas! I think Prisilla would be great for a girl and Edgar for a boy! Enjoy this amazing time!


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