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Going Home: Yahtzee's journey back to the sea
By Carl Thompson


October 27, 2005

Ketchikan, Alaska - Wednesday was a great day for an adorable seal named Yahtzee and for the staff of the Alaska SeaLife Center. It was the day Yahtzee returned home.

Yahtzee was released Wednesday afternoon at Ketchikan's Bugge Beach by staff from the Alaska SeaLife Center along with help from the NOAA Office for Law Enforcement.  On hand to watch this inspiring event were a few Ketchikan residents and children from a local school.

jpg Yahtzee's journey

Photo By Carl Thompson

Yahtzee was alert and calm. When released, he made his way directly to the water with a few sideways glances.  Once in the water, Yahtzee looked back as if to say good-bye and thanks. Yahtzee then made his way out to deeper water and was gone... his long journey back home coming to an end.

Yahtzee was the latest harbor seal admitted into the Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) Rehabilitation program located in Seward, Alaska.  He was first observed in Ketchikan hauled out on a dock and shivering.  Due to his condition as well as a strong human presence, he was first taken to the Ketchikan Veterinary Clinic, and then later transferred to the Alaska SeaLife Center. The first exam of the seal determined that he was moderately dehydrated as well as underweight at 8.1 kg, but he was bright, active and responsive.

jpg Andrea Crewley

Andrea Crewley of Seward's Alaska Sealife Center is assisted in carrying Yahtzee on Bugge Beach down to the water for release.
Photo By Carl Thompson

Alaska Airlines transported Yahtzee from Ketchikan to Seward where he was given fluids to help him rehydrate. The underweight Yahtzee was offered thawed frozen herring which staff said he readily accepted.  According to information provided by the Alaska SeaLife Center, from that point forward, Yahtzee ate very well and continued to gain weight on his herring diet.  At the time of his release Wednesday, he weighed 25.2 kg and had demonstrated to the ASLC staff his ability to forage well on live fish. Throughout his treatment and recovery, Yahtzee maintained a feisty attitude. 

The Alaska SeaLife Center said Yahtzee did however develop a slight infection at the beginning of October but with the help of antimicrobials, the infection cleared and he was given a clean bill of health for his journey home to Ketchikan.  The Rehabilitation staff at ASLC said they looked forward to his release.

 jpg Yahtzee released

Andrea Crewley of Seward's Alaska Sealife Center releases Yahtzee.
Photo By Carl Thompson

This year has been ASLC's busiest stranding and most successful rehabilitation year since the facility opened.  At one point they said they had 12 individual animals representing 5 different marine mammal species in residence, including harbor seals, an otter, a walrus, a ring seal, and a steller sea lion.  So far this year, animals have spent a total of over 1200 days (including almost 100 days of round-the-clock care for critical patients) in-house at the Alaska SeaLife Center being provided with nutritional support and medical care.  Yahtzee is the eleventh animal the ASLC has released this year.

jpg Yahtzee returns to the sea

Once in the water, Yahtzee looked back as if to say good-bye and thanks. Yahtzee then made his way out to deeper water and was gone...
his long journey back home coming to an end.
Photo By Carl Thompson

The ASLC thanked Alaska Airlines for help with the transport of Yahtzee between Ketchikan and Seward.  The also thanked Drew Mathews with the NOAA Office for Law Enforcement, the Ketchikan Veterinary Clinic as well as other members of the Alaska outreach program for their involvement and support which made Yahtzee's release possible.

According to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) it is illegal to touch, feed, or disturb any marine mammal without proper authorization.  If you find an injured or abandoned marine mammal, contact the Alaska SeaLife Center Stranded Hotline at 1-888-774-SEAL (7325).


Carl Thompson is a freelance photographer living in Ketchikan.
Contact him at carl(AT)

Carl Thompson ©2005

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