While on her rounds, the overnight engineer at the New England Aquarium in Boston noticed blood on the floor of the seal holding area. Ursula, a 14-year-old Northern fur seal, was apparently in labor, so the engineer called for backup. Veterinary staff arrived and Ursula gave birth to a healthy seal pup.
The pup is 8 pounds (3.6 kilograms) and hasn't been named yet.
The birth was a first for the aquarium, which has seven Northern fur seals residing in the pinniped exhibit of the aquarium's new $11 million marine mammal center. Staff from the aquarium recently began gathering animals from the wild to start a breeding program.
Among those brought in were Ursula, a 90-pound (40 kg) adult female from the New York Aquarium, and Isaac, an athletically impressive, 300-pound (136 kg) adolescent male from the Seattle Aquarium. Isaac is now an adult with a trademark fur Mohawk; he tips the scales at more than 400 pounds (180 kg).
Northern fur seals have some of the thickest fur of any animal and can be found throughout the chilly waters of the north Pacific and off the coast of Alaska. They were once hunted to the brink of extinction for their pelts.
They are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, in part because their numbers continue to decline for unknown reasons, despite the outlawing of commercial hunting.