OK, they didn't walk into a bar; that was a shameless attempt to get you to read this story.
But in 2012, they certainly had an excursion.
We’ve had a fair number of history questions lately, and I love those. But Northlandia is more than just a history column, so let’s talk about something more current. This question comes from several of my News Tribune colleagues.
Question: What happened to the Lake Superior Zoo’s seal after the 2012 flood? What about its polar bear?
If you were living in the area at the time, you might remember that the zoo actually had two harbor seals, Feisty and Vivian. Both seals were born at the Denver Zoo and came to Duluth in 1991.
They lived in the zoo’s Polar Shores exhibit along with Berlin the polar bear, and all three escaped their enclosures for a time when the floodwaters of Kingsbury Creek inundated the exhibit on June 20, 2012.
But it was Feisty who ended up in the middle of Grand Avenue, looking bewildered as motorist Ellie Burcar snapped a photo that set the internet ablaze.
Zoo staff eventually rounded up the three animals, but their home was destroyed and the zoo didn’t have the resources to rebuild it, so the three were sent to the Como Park Zoo in St. Paul.
After losing weight and becoming lethargic, Vivian was euthanized in March 2013. She was 23 years old. Female harbor seals have a life expectancy of 30-35 years, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Feisty was transferred ABQ BioPark zoo in Albuquerque, N.M., in November 2015. He is now 29.
On Thursday, I called down to the BioPark and spoke with zoo manager Lynn Tupa, who said that Feisty adjusted well to his new home.
“Just so people know, he is, like, one of the best harbor seals,” said Tupa, who drove to St. Paul to pick him up from the Como Park Zoo. “He’s really cool. Everybody really likes Feisty.”
The zoo, however, closed its seal exhibit this past spring to make room for an updated Australia exhibit, and Feisty and two other seals will leave the BioPark when new homes are found.
Tupa said that several facilities have expressed interest, but one of the BioPark’s female seals is quite elderly, and that’s made it more difficult to find a suitable spot.
In the meantime, Tupa said, the seals are relaxing behind the scenes at the BioPark.
“We have a back holding facility that they are all in,” she said. “It's kind of like little posh little spa back there, with two huge pools and a sundeck.”
As for Berlin the polar bear, she was transferred to the Kansas City Zoo in December 2012 as a mate for a male polar bear named Nikita.
According to a 2015 News Tribune article, she became “an instant star — as ‘wife’ (to) Nikita — and already is a familiar name to many of the area’s 2 million residents.”
At the end of 2015, Nikita was transferred to the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, N.C., as a mate for a bear there, while Berlin remains in Kansas City.
You can check in on Berlin via the Kansas City Zoo’s polar bear cam at kansascityzoo.org/ouranimals/list-of-animals/polar-bear.