Oregon Coast Aquarium mourns loss of sea lion

Max, a California sea lion that had resided at the Oregon Coast Aquarium since it opened in 1992, died last week of natural causes.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium is saddened to announce the passing of Max, its oldest sea lion. Max enjoyed a long and healthy life of 30 years at the aquarium and passed away from natural causes last week.

Max was one of the original sea lions when the aquarium opened in 1992. He was just two years old when he arrived from the Chicago Brookfield Zoo, where he was born. Max, a California sea lion, was a favorite of many guests.

“Max was always eager to please his trainers. One of his favorite behaviors was fetching toys,” said Brittany Blades, curator of marine mammals. “Without us asking, he would retrieve toys from the pool and bring them to us and then look at us like he just did the best thing ever and deserved a whole bucket full of fish. He had this look with very sweet brown eyes that felt like he had a deep connection with us, staring into our souls.”

Blades said Max was loved not just by all his trainers and guests, but also by all of his sea lion pool mates. “Our female sea lions, Catalina and Rosa, would argue over who got to be closest to Max during breeding season. Everyone who has worked with Max has been able to build a strong relationship with him. He will always have a very special place in my heart and many others.”

Max was a geriatric sea lion and an exceptional patient, allowing aquarium staff to do medical behaviors like X-rays, blood draws, ultrasounds and chiropractic treatments with little to no food incentive. Max had recently developed a cough, which prompted the staff to take radiographs of his throat, lungs and heart. After radiologists looked at his X-rays, it was recommended he be transported to Oregon State University to get a CT scan. Following tests at OSU, Max was diagnosed with congested heart failure.

“Max was such a beloved ambassador of his species, who delighted our visitors and staff for many years. We will miss him forever,” said Carrie Lewis, president/CEO of the aquarium.

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