News Release
Contact: Sondra Katzen, Public Relations, 708.688.8351,
January 9, 2018                                      
Gray Seal Born at Brookfield Zoo

Note: Images of the gray seal pup may be downloaded below:


            Brookfield, Ill.—One of the last births that took place in 2017 at Brookfield Zoo was a gray seal, born on December 26. The pup is currently behind the scenes nursing, learning how to swim, and bonding with his mother, 13-year-old Lily. This pup is the third for Lily and the sire, 13-year-old Boone.

At birth, gray seal pups are born with long, white fur called lanugo (pronounced la-NOO-go), which is molted in two to four weeks and replaced with shorter, stiffer hair similar to that of adults. Although guests will most likely not be able to see the pup at the outdoor habitat at Pinniped Point prior to the pup molting, they can view updated photos and video of him on the zoo’s website at or on Brookfield Zoo’s Facebook page.

The male pup weighed 36 pounds at birth, and he is on track to quadruple his weight by the time he is weaned at 3 weeks of age. The fat-rich milk he receives from his mother, allows the pup to put on a lot of weight in a short amount of time. Gray seals have one of the shortest nursing periods of pinnipeds (group of marine mammals that are winged- or web-footed). In the wild, pups are born in the winter and put on several pounds a day. The blubber is a great insulator. They also need to grow quickly because once they are weaned and grow their darker coat, pups are on their own. They need to be able to fend for themselves and go out to sea to learn to hunt.

The pup’s birth is very important to the gray seal population in North American institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Although their numbers are not threatened in the wild (they are found in the Western North Atlantic, the Eastern North Atlantic, and the Baltic Sea), currently there are only 25 individuals in 10 institutions. Brookfield Zoo is home to five individuals. Rita Stacey, curator of marine mammals for the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, is the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ studbook keeper and population management planner for gray seals. In this role, she documents the pedigree and entire demographic history of each individual in the gray seal population. These collective histories are known as the population's genetic and demographic identity and are invaluable tools used to track and manage each animal, as well as to make breeding recommendations for the sustainability of the population.
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About the Chicago Zoological Society
The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society is to inspire conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The Society is known throughout the world for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. Its Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare is at the forefront of animal care that strives to discover and implement innovative approaches to zoo animal management. Open every day of the year, the zoo is located off First Avenue between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and is also accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA, and PACE bus service. For further information, visit


Sondra Katzen
Director of Public Relations
Office: 708-688-8351
Cell Phone: 708-903-2071


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