Phoca vitulina and Halichoerus grypus
At the Detroit Zoo
The Detroit Zoo is home to four rescued seals. Jersey is female gray seal pup rescued from the New Jersey shoreline. She is joined by gray seal Georgie, who was rescued off the coast of Georgetown, Maine, in the summer of 2013, and Kiinaq, a large gray seal who was rescued in 2001. Sidney is a harbor seal who can often be seen blowing bubbles, which is a behavior typical for this species. 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 over 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.
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.