Oregon Coast Aquarium loses another sea lion

Quill, the last surviving sea lion from the original sea lion colony that made the Oregon coast its home since the aquarium’s opening in 1992, passed away last week. (Photo courtesy of Oregon Coast Aquarium)

The Oregon Coast Aquarium has announced the death of Quill, a resident sea lion who passed away after a decline in her quality of life. She was 30 years old.

This is the second recent loss of a sea lion at the aquarium. In September, Max died of natural causes. 

Quill was the last surviving sea lion from the original sea lion colony that made the Oregon coast its home since the aquarium’s opening in 1992. Half-sibling to Max and born just a few weeks apart, she was two years old when she arrived from the Chicago Brookfield Zoo.

Quill was often described as a spunky people pleaser. She would make the biggest splash with her backflips, and she would give a short bark to let her trainers know she deserved a fish. Known for her reliability in meeting guests during pinniped encounters (which the aquarium is currently unable to offer), she was often referred to as “Meet Quill.”

As Quill aged into her 20s, she developed cataracts and arthritis. Staff monitored her closely. Quill was 27 years old when she started showing signs of pain and decreased mobility. Her trainers implemented treatments to insure she had the best quality of life, and Quill voluntarily participated in all her own medical care, including chiropractor and acupuncture sessions. These treatments, along with the dedication of her keepers, allowed Quill to live a longer and happier life.

“Quill is a testament to how important it is for mammalogists to build a strong relationship with the animals under their care. Quill would not have been able to have as high quality of life as she had without her trust in her caretakers. She was able to be surrounded by her people as she passed,” said Brittany Blades, curator of marine mammals.

In the wild, sea lions can live into their late teens or early 20s. Under human care, they can live into their late 20s or early 30s, like Quill and Max.

“Quill has given inspiration about our ocean to millions of our visitors. It is always hard saying goodbye to an animal that has been such a big part of our lives, and she will be remembered fondly by all of us and those she has met along the way,” said Jim Burke, director of animal husbandry.

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