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Animal Updates | Mammals | Volunteering

Thursday, August 30, 2012


A Little Seal in a Big Exhibit

It was nervous time for this marine mammal husbandry volunteer as I came in for my Saturday shift last week. Bixby, the daughter of harbor seals Shelby and Troy, was reintroduced to the seal and sea lion exhibit just a few days earlier. Just back from a business trip and a bit out of touch with the week’s Aquarium activities I had a lot of question in my mind concerning the little seal. How well would she navigate the nooks and crannies of the massive 200,000 gallon exhibit? How would the sea lions react to her? How would she react to the other animals of the exhibit and to guests in the viewing tunnel? Turns out I shouldn’t have been so concerned.

You can tell that Bixby is the daughter of Troy. Troy is the alpha male of the exhibit and is very bold to the point of fearlessness. The sea lions don’t mess with him. When Bixby was introduced to the exhibit she didn’t waste much time in establishing her rank in the hierarchy of the exhibit. When Milo the sea lion came over to investigate the little seal you would think that Bixby would have been intimated by the much larger sea lion. Instead, when Milo got a little too close to her face for her comfort she proceeded to head-butt him not once but twice to the surprise of the the young sea lion. She also boldly interacts with the other two sea lions, Parker and Harpo to the point of being a pest to them. Bixby swims surprisingly fast for a pup and can easily keep up with a sea lion. The sea lions have learned to give her a wide berth.

Bixby isn’t shy when it comes to guests in the underwater viewing tunnel and the topside viewing glass. Like her father she likes to people watch. She seems to especially like interacting with kids occasionally having staring contests with them.

She’s also not camera shy. I was fortunate enough to work with her that Saturday so I took the opportunity to take a few pictures of her. Unfortunately she has the habit of wanting to put her nose on the camera lens. She always seems to want to have a close-up taken. It’s like she knows how cute she is and wants to share her cuteness with everybody.

Despite her boldness with the sea lions she was a good little seal being quick to come when called and showing proper manners when I was feeding her. In this respect she takes after her mom Shelby. Shelby is a highly intelligent and well mannered seal and it’s nice to see that these traits have also been passed on to Bixby.

When a guest asked me later that day how I would describe Bixby I told her to think of the little seal as a cross between two television show characters: Bones and Xena. Bixby is smart, good looking and tough as nails! It’s going to be fun watching her grow up.

Bixby surfaces for a training session.  | Hugh Ryono
Bixby joins a training session with her mom Shelby and Ellie the harbor seal.  | Hugh Ryono
Senior Mammalogist Debbie with Harbor Seals Ellie, Shelby, Bixby and Troy during a training session.  | Hugh Ryono
Bixby the Harbor Seal is definately not shy when it comes to having her picture taken. I actually had to back up the camera to get her in focus for this shot.  | Hugh Ryono

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