Put your flippers together for more fur seal haul-out space!

A large brown colored northern fur seal sitting on rockwork next to a pool of water in the fur seal habitat at the Seattle Aquarium.
Flaherty the northern fur seal will soon have even more space to haul out (and strike a pose!).

Great news: you’ll soon be able to get even more nose-to-nose with Flaherty the northern fur seal. We’ve embarked on an exciting addition to his habitat that will provide additional haul-out space!

What is “hauling out,” you ask? Put simply, it’s coming out of water to spend time on land. Fur seals naturally spend about 80% of their time, or 300 days out of the year, at sea—but they do come ashore to rest, reproduce and molt. Fur seals at the Aquarium may come out of the water to take naps, groom their fur or enjoy some of their favorite foods during a training session to practice the important skills that allow them to voluntarily participate in their own health care

(Fast fact: “fur seal” is the perfect name for these animals: they have 300,000 hairs per square inch of skin! That’s the second-densest fur of any animal on the planet. Who takes the top spot? Sea otters, at a whopping 500,000 to 1,000,000 hairs per square inch!)

The additional space will not only benefit Flaherty—it will also be great for Aquarium visitors because it’s directly adjacent to the glass walls of the habitat, allowing people to get an even closer look at him and create the opportunity for increased personal connections. It’s connections like these that are a critical element of our animal-themed empathy work

Not sure what that is? It’s based on research that shows that encouraging and developing empathy for animals is a critical motivator toward action on the animals’ behalf. Or, put another way, that caring about animals helps us want to do what we can to help protect and care for them. And how could you not care about fur seals after gazing directly into Flaherty’s eyes? 

The habitat expansion is also a plus for Aquarium staff: it will provide an elevated space for them to talk with visitors about the amazing world of fur seals and what each of us can do to ensure they have a healthy ocean to live in—and it will also provide easier access when they enter the habitat for a training session or routine cleaning. 

Construction is currently underway. If you don’t already, follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for updates on its completion. Where can you find Flaherty in the meantime? He’s temporarily in the sea otter habitat while we work to update his home. Plan a visit soon to come say hello in person! You can also check in on Flaherty virtually during our regular hours of operation via our main sea otter habitat webcam (which is now a temporary fur seal webcam!).

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