Virginia Aquarium seals head south for the winter

Hector the seal waves good bye - Va. Aquarium Photo

Hector the seal waves good bye - Va. Aquarium Photo

Hector the seal waves good bye - Va. Aquarium Photo

Hector the seal waves good bye – Va. Aquarium Photo

Virginia Beach, Va. – Five ‘furry fellows’ at the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center have headed to a warmer spot for the winter.

According to Virginia Aquarium officials, there is no place at the Aquarium for seals to be temporarily housed; so, they were transported to the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, last weekend, where they will remain in residence until the end of March.

Peter, Piper, Phoca, Norton, and Hector traveled by truck with a team of Marine Mammal Specialists to their Florida destination and are adapting well to their new environment, according to Aquarium Senior Curator of Mammals Chip Harshaw.

“This will not be a true Florida vacation for the seals – it will be more like summer school since they will continue to work with Virginia Aquarium trainers at the Gulfarium Park until their return.”

Officials say the Harbor Seal exhibit is nearly 17 years old – and its roof needs some work and a new heat exchanger that cools the water in the summer.

“The first thing guests will notice is that all of the water in the pool has been drained,” said Harshaw. “This is necessary to remove all of the waterproofing epoxy on the bottom of the pool, repair the concrete pool basin of minor cracks, and remove all of the old caulk that seals the acrylic glass to the concrete pool. Once this is completed, a new coat of epoxy and caulk will seal the pool. In addition, the habitat’s acrylic will be polished to a like-new condition before the pool is refilled and ready to house our seals once again.”

Until the Virginia Aquarium seals return to their habitat, locals could possibly see harbor seals in the wild in winter and spring along Virginia’s coastline. Other species known to occur in our area are grey seals, hooded seals, and harp seals. Most seal sightings in Virginia are of an individual animal popping its head out of the water, or sitting on the beach or on someone’s dock.