The Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport adopted three harbor seals from California this winter. The aquarium wanted the younger mammals to join their older seal population.
Miller, Tater and Elvis are 19, 20 and 21 years old, which isn't very young for harbor seals, but the Newport Aquarium's oldest harbor seal is turning 40 this year. Spokeswoman Erin Paxton says the aquarium uses positive reinforcement to train their marine mammals which allows them to communicate with their trainers.
Paxton: "There's husbandry behaviors and that would be the animal lying still for an X-ray, presenting a flipper for a blood draw or holding their eyes open so they can have drops administered. And then there are also enrichment behaviors which are kind of more fun and that includes things like painting or interacting with the public."
Yes, seals can paint pictures by holding brushes in their mouths. Paxton says enrichment behaviors are important because it allows the seals to get exercise and stay active since they aren't hunting for food or fleeing from predators. When the adopted seals were introduced to their new tank mates, Paxton says they started swimming and playing together.