BPZOO Mourns the Loss of Beloved Atlantic Harbor Seal
New Bedford, Massachusetts: Buttonwood Park Zoo is mourning the loss of Yellow, a female Atlantic harbor seal, who came to BPZOO after being rescued from a Cape Cod beach in 1983. One of BPZOO’s most beloved and iconic animals, Yellow exceeded life expectancy for an Atlantic harbor seal, as she was less than a week from her 40th birthday.
Yellow, as one of BPZOO’s oldest residents, and the oldest female Atlantic harbor seal in an institution accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) was under careful monitoring and care for many age-related illnesses. Recently, animal care staff noticed a reduction in her appetite, and increasing troublesome neurological signs, such as lethargy, decreased mobility, and, finally, seizures.
After a variety of diagnostic tests, including bloodwork, a whole-body CT scan and infectious disease testing it became clear that her condition was continuing to deteriorate. Due to advanced age, poor prognosis, and a major decline in her quality of life, Zoo leadership, animal care, and veterinary teams made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize her. She passed away surrounded by her animal care team. A necropsy has been performed and biopsies were submitted with results pending.
“It was an incredibly difficult decision; one that we did not come to lightly,” said BPZOO’s Director, Gary Lunsford. “Yellow was a wonderful ambassador for her species and beloved by so many. We know her loss will be profoundly felt by her extensive animal care team as well as the many volunteers and guests who had the pleasure of interacting with her over the last 40 years.”
Known for being very sweet, and a little sassy, Yellow thrived under the expert care at BPZOO. Kristy Kaeterle and her twin sister Kerry Silvia cared for Yellow for more than two decades.
“There are so many things that we loved about her and will miss forever – like her impatient little snorts when we were taking too long with the fish that she loved so much. She also had impeccable timing, always knocking the pool brush out of our hands at just the right moment bringing a laugh from us, every time.”
It wasn’t just animal care staff that noticed her silly behavior – guests also commented on Yellow’s quirky habit of napping at the bottom of her pool.
“Guests would constantly ask us ‘What is she doing?’ – and we would assure them that she was just taking a little nap!”
Yellow gave birth to Blue, her sole living offspring in 2003 and together they built strong relationships with their caretakers. These strong connections allowed for hands-on vet exams and close monitoring of their health, contributing to her longevity. Yellow knew more than 25 trained behaviors, including stationing on a scale, allowing keepers to brush her teeth, place drops in her eyes and even presenting herself for x-rays, vaccines, and blood draws.
One of the most beautiful ways this relationship was showcased was through Yellow’s unique artwork, featured yearly in BPZOO’s annual Art Gone Wild Auction as well Zoolala.
“If you have a seal flipper print in the shape of a flower – cherish it. It was her specialty. She taught us many things over the years, but one of the most important lessons we learned was the importance of trust in a friendship,” said Kaeterle and Silvia.
Yellow will be deeply missed.