Seward, Alaska (November 10, 2015) – The Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) is saddened to announce the passing of Woody, a 22-year-old male Steller sea lion who was one of the Center’s original residents. Woody was humanely euthanized Monday following a rapid decline due to age-related complications.
In the wild, male Steller sea lions almost never live beyond their teens. As a result of Woody’s mature age, staff had been monitoring his health closely and addressing various age-related issues such as arthritis and slow healing. While male sea lions typically lose a significant amount of weight in the fall, Woody lost more weight at a faster rate compared to previous years. Despite attempts by animal care and veterinary staff to reverse this trend, he lost interest in food and stopped participating in regular feeding sessions over the past two weeks, culminating in profound weight loss. A necropsy is currently being conducted.
Woody was born in May 1993 and came to the ASLC from the Vancouver Aquarium with females Sugar and Kiska when they were all five years old. While female Steller sea lions typically live longer than males, Woody was the last remaining member of this original sea lion cohort. Sugar died this past March of bone cancer and Kiska died in 2010 of pancreatic cancer.
Woody is survived by two offspring, Ellie born in June 2013 and Forrest born in July 2014. Ellie and Forrest are the first Steller sea lions born in a North American aquarium since the 1980s. Their births were part of a maternal investment research program. ASLC’s Steller sea lion research programs significantly contribute to the understanding of these animals in the wild– their reproduction, habitats and sustainability. Woody’s participation in these studies occurred at a critical time for Steller sea lion populations in Alaska, some of which are still listed as endangered.
Since 1998, over two million visitors had the opportunity to meet Woody at the ASLC. He was well-known for his sheer size (topping out over 2400 pounds in 2014), large personality, and curious intelligence. Husbandry Manager Lisa Hartman who worked with Woody since 1998, reminisced about Woody: “He was synonymous with ASLC for nearly 18 years—our iconic face and personality. Children have grown up knowing him. He commanded attention and will be missed beyond measure.”
In honor of Woody, two funds are currently being established that honor what Woody loved best – his home and the children of Alaska.