Companion Animal

Behavioral Response to a Novel “X” Shape Target Stimuli in a Harbor Seal

  • Johanna F. Sholar (Iowa State University)
  • Anna K. Johnson (Iowa State University)
  • Keiko Sampson (Blank Park Zoo)
  • Chad Comer (Blank Park Zoo)
  • Kevin Drees (Blank Park Zoo)


The objective of this study was to provide an environmental enrichment device (shape target) to determine if it improved the Harbor Seal’s visibility in the underwater viewing windows when housed at the Blank Park Zoo. One male harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) 3-years of age weighing 39 kg was used. Testing occurred Saturday through Tuesday over 6 consecutive weeks between 1300 and 1330 h. Live observations were collected continuously by one observer. Latency, frequency, and duration were measured. All data is presented descriptively. During baseline the Seal had no interest in the window. Upon presenting the “X” target, he approached quickly and interacted well. However by week 5, the seal’s interest to approach took longer but once the seal targeted he spent more time interacting with the device. Within the context of this study, the use of novel target enrichment for the seal showed promise in causing the seal to be more active towards the target and he was more visible in the underwater viewing windows.

Keywords: Animal Science

How to Cite:

Sholar, J. F., Johnson, A. K., Sampson, K., Comer, C. & Drees, K., (2014) “Behavioral Response to a Novel “X” Shape Target Stimuli in a Harbor Seal”, Iowa State University Animal Industry Report 11(1). doi:

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Published on
01 Jan 2014
Peer Reviewed