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Forum News Service, Published March 04 2013

Duluth runaway seal dies after surgery at St. Paul zoo

ST. PAUL - Vivian, one of the Lake Superior Zoo harbor seals who became famous after the June 20 flood in Duluth, died Saturday following emergency exploratory surgery, when she was euthanized.

The seal had been living at the Como Park Zoo and Conservancy in St. Paul since the flood. She was considered geriatric at age 23, although female harbor seals have a life expectancy of 30-35 years.

The animal care team at Como had recently noticed weight loss and lethargy, according Lake Superior Zoo officials, which prompted the surgery. A previous surgery had been performed in late December to remove a blockage in Vivian’s stomach. During the most recent surgery doctors found scar tissue from the former surgery, and fusing of the intestine to itself. Considering the findings and future quality of life for Vivian, the University of Minnesota and Como Park Zoo and Conservancy veterinary staff chose to euthanize her.

The seal had been showing signs of health problems prior to being transferred to the Como Zoo after the flood.

Vivian and her sister, Feisty, escaped their Polar Shores exhibit during the flood when the exhibit was overcome with water. Feisty was found in the early morning on Grand Avenue and Vivian was found near the road. Feisty was photographed by a woman who stopped her car after seeing the seal in the road, and the photo went viral. Both seals were safely brought back into the zoo.

Peter Pruett, director of Lake Superior Zoo operations, said Vivian was the “nicest pinniped” he’d ever worked with.

“She was a staff favorite and will always hold a special place in the hearts of the people who had the pleasure to work with her,” he said.