Zoo Animals



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.

The harbor seal has a rounded head with a fairly blunt snout and lacks external ear flaps. Its color varies from silver with black spots, to black with gray or white rings, to almost pure white.

The gray seal has a speckled body with shiny, white whiskers. Its foreflippers and hind flippers are webbed with five strong claws on each. The gray seal has very powerful rear flippers that propel it through the water, using its tail to help steer. It also has very powerful shoulders that enable it to haul out onto steep and slippery rocks, even in a big swell.

Fun Facts

  • 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.