Creature Feature: Harbour Seal

Creature Feature: Harbour Seal

This article was originally published in the Winter 2018 Wild Times Newsletter.

Arctic Shores is home to four playful and entertaining harbour seals. The female quartette ranges from 11 to 18 years. Hula, Wasabi, Millie, and Sushi spend their day darting around their indoor and outdoor saltwater pools, and resting poolside to watch the crowds. Along with sea lions and walruses, these furry mammals are known as pinnipeds, meaning flipper-footed. Long, flat flippers, each with five webbed digits, propel them with speed and agility through the water. Thick layers of subcutaneous fat provides energy, and insulation in the cold water. Unlike a sea lion, seals don’t have ear flaps.

SIZE: They can reach up to 1.9 m (6 ft) long and can weigh up to 160 kg (352 lbs).
HABITAT: Saltwater shorelines north of the equator in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Often seen near piers, beaches and intercostal islands.
DIET: Mostly fish (cod, herring, salmon) as well as squid, octopus, crabs, clams. Each whisker moves independently to feel the vibrations of swimming prey.
BEHAVIOURS: Can dive down to 457 m (1,500 ft) but generally forage in shallower waters. To accomplish this feat they stop breathing, slow their heart rate and shunt blood from their extremities to their brain, heart and muscles.
OFFSPRING: One pup per year.
LIFE EXPECTANCY: Females outlive males – 30-35 years vs 20-25 years. Longest recorded lifespan was 47 years.
THREATS: Predators include sharks, killer whales and polar bears. Humans hunt them for their fur, oil and meat. No conservation concerns at this time.


Canada lynx are a medium-sized cat with distinct long ear tufts, flared facial hair and a black-tipped, bobbed tail. Canada lynx are part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP). In the 1900’s their populations declined drastically due to the fur trade. The Edmonton Valley Zoo is searching the zoo world for a suitable companion for Xena.

SIZE: Approx.2 ft (60 cm) tall, 3 ft (90 cm) long, 8-14 kg (18-31 lbs)
HABITAT: Boreal forests and mountainous areas with cold snowy winters and high populations of snowshoe hare. Found in Canada, northern United States and Alaska.
DIET: Mostly snowshoe hares but they will also eat small rodents, ground birds and carrion. Lynx populations fluctuate dramatically, following the snowshoe hare cyclic spikes and crashes.
BEHAVIOURS: Solitary, usually hunting & traveling alone. Lynx are not fast runners so use cunning to hunt, often waiting hours in a hiding spot before pouncing on prey. Large, round feet support their weight on top of the snow.
OFFSPRING: Average of four kittens.
LIFE EXPECTANCY: 15-20 years.
THREATS: Cougars, wolves, coyotes. Humans are their biggest threat; trappers hunt them for their beautiful fur.

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The Edmonton Valley Zoo is home to nine Goeldi’s monkeys – parents Charlotte and Rene and their seven offspring. Goeldi’s are part of the international Species Survival Plan (SSP) which works to ensure the survival of species that are threatened or endangered in the wild. Goeldi’s monkeys, also referred to as callimicos, Goeldi’s marmosets, and Goeldi’s tamarins, are small, rare New World primates found in the Amazon basin in South America. Their bodies are covered with black, thick, silky fur with a mane of longer hair circling their neck. Size: A little larger than a squirrel. Habitat: Found in the tropical rain-forests in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Goeldi’s are arboreal (live in trees).

Diet: Fruit, insects, spiders, fungi, plant sap and nectar.
Behaviours: Social animals living in a troop size as large as 12. They have 40 discrete vocalizations in the wild. Aggression is signaled by an arched posture, mouth-open facial expressions and leaping from support to support with bristled hair.
Offspring: They give birth to one infant after a 145- to 152-day gestation period.
Life expectancy: 20 years and beyond in captivity.
Threats: Conservation status is vulnerable primarily due to habitat loss. Sadly, there are Goeldi’s monkeys and other primates being sold on the internet as pets.

Creature Feature: Three-banded Armadillo




ORIGINAL ARTICLE BY: Janice Ryan, B.SC, Author, Writer, Former Zookeeper
PRINTED IN: The Wild Times, Spring 2017

The Edmonton Valley Zoo is home to a trio of three-banded armadillos, Twyla, Scarp and Rio, ages 14 to 15. They are part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) as their conservation status is vulnerable.

Armadillos have scutes, a natural armour of movable bony plates covering their back, head, legs and tail. Though there are 20 species of armadillos, the three-banded variety is the only one that can roll itself into a ball as a defense mechanism against predators. The others dig a hole and hunker down to protect their soft body parts.

Size: Smallest pink fairy armadillo is about 6 inches (15 m) long while giant armadillos reach 5 feet (1.5 meters).
Habitat: All live in Central and South America except for the nine-banded armadillo found in the southern United States.
Diet: Primarily insects caught with their long, sticky tongues; also eat plants, eggs, and small animals.
Behaviours: Solitary creatures but get together to mate or keep warm; sleep up to 16 hours a day in burrows when not foraging for food.
Offspring: Give birth to one pup in the birthing burrow; other species have up to 12.
Life expectancy: Up to 42 years; other species average four to 30 years.
Threats: Domestic dogs, wild cats, birds of prey and humans.