Phoca vitulina and Halichoerus grypus
At the Detroit Zoo
The Detroit Zoo is home to three rescued seals. Jersey is a female gray seal born in 2014 and rescued from the New Jersey shoreline that same year. Female gray seal Georgie was born in 2012 and rescued off the coast of Georgetown, Maine, in 2013. Sidney is a male harbor seal born in 1981; he was rescued off the coast of Maine and found sanctuary at the Zoo in 1992. Sidney is easily distinguished from the others by the white spot in the middle of his forehead.
The seals reside at the Arctic Ring of Life, one of North America’s largest polar bear habitats, which is also home to arctic foxes. This state-of-the-art, interactive facility encompasses more than 4 acres of outdoor and indoor habitats. The most unique feature is the spectacular 70-foot-long Frederick and Barbara Erb Polar Passage, a clear tunnel that takes visitors underneath diving and swimming polar bears and seals. This award-winning habitat was named the second-best exhibit at any zoo in the U.S. by The Intrepid Traveler’s guide to America’s Best Zoos.
Harbor seals have rounded heads with fairly blunt snouts and lack external ear flaps. Their colors vary from silver with black spots, to black with gray or white rings, to almost pure white.
Gray seals have speckled bodies with shiny, white whiskers. Their foreflippers and hind flippers are webbed with five strong claws on each. Gray seals have very powerful rear flippers that propel them through the water, using their tails to help steer. They also have very powerful shoulders that enable them to haul out onto steep and slippery rocks, even in a big swell.
Most dives are short and last only a few minutes, but harbor seals can dive up to 30 minutes.
The gray seal's large eyes allow it to see well in dark murky waters; however, its highly sensitive ears are most important for locating prey.