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Press Release

Dane County’s Henry Vilas Zoo Welcomes a New Harbor Seal

September 14, 2020

Dane County’s Henry Vilas Zoo is thrilled to announce the arrival of a new harbor seal. Sammye, a 1-year old female harbor seal, arrived from the Alaska Zoo in August and has completed all of her health checks and is ready to join the two male harbor seals already at the zoo. She was named after the founder of the Alaska Zoo, Sammye Seawell, who passed away last year.

“We are excited to welcome Sammye to the Henry Vilas Zoo,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “A huge thank you goes out to our staff for taking care of Sammye and keeping her healthy. It’s through the community’s continued support that we are able to welcome new animals and further our education and conservation efforts at the Henry Vilas Zoo.”

Harbor seals, also known as common seals, spend about half of their time in the water and half on land. They have the widest distribution of any seal and live in both the North Atlantic and Northern Pacific oceans.

“Sammye is a great addition,” said Zoo Director Ronda Schwetz. “She is very curious and loves to explore. She will be easy for guests to identify right now because she is so much smaller than the two male seals, Sparky and Piper. Sammye is going to be a great animal ambassador for marine mammals.”

Sammye was brought to the zoo with funds raised last year on “Giving Tuesday,” a global day dedicated to giving back. The zoo was also able to bring six new flamingos, a camel, a bison, and several birds to Madison with Giving Tuesday funds. Giving Tuesday will fall on December 1 this year.