A blind harbor seal pup that was rescued off the coast of Homer, Alaska, is now learning basic behaviors at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward.
Bryce was found stranded on the beach in August 2014, and veterinary staff think he suffered a head trauma that caused his blindness.
Because of his blindness, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-National Marine Fisheries Service has deemed the pup non-releasable.
Although SeaLife Center officials say Bryce’s eyesight might be improving in one eye, he’s still unable to fend for himself.
However, Bryce’s heightened reliance on sound enables staff to teach him husbandry skills like hand-feeding and targeting.
Because he can’t see, they use audio cues instead of the usual visual cues. In place of a target buoy, they shake a rattle so the seal pup can follow the sound.
"His progress under human care is very encouraging, but we think Bryce's biggest accomplishment is the impressive ability to use his other senses and thrive in his environment," Jenna Miller, a spokeswoman for the SeaLife Center, told Alaska’s Channel 2 News.
Bryce was the center’s final rescue of 2014, and he will remain at the center until a permanent home is found.
The Alaska SeaLife Center is the only permanent stranding facility for marine mammals in the state, and the facility’s veterinary staff and volunteers have cared for numerous harbor seal pups over the years.
In addition to rehabilitating seals and other animals, the SeaLife Center also monitors Alaska’s wildlife populations by studying ill or orphaned marine mammals and birds.
Visit the center’s website to see more photos of Bryce and other animals currently being rehabilitated.
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