He was a painter and father, who dedicated his life to aquatic research and provided valuable opportunities for scientists and visitors to better understand marine mammals.
Snapper — a long-lived resident of the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward — recently succumbed to age-related complications.
The 33-year-old harbor seal was one of the go-to animals for teaching and learning at the aquarium — with many interns and summer fellows working with him during their time at the center.
“He impacted a lot of people,” Husbandry Director Lisa Hartman said. “A lot of people learned by working with him.”
Hartman and Snapper arrived at the SeaLife Center within months of each other 20 years ago.
“We kind of came through the SeaLife together, so to speak,” she said.
Despite the name, Snapper got along well with the other animals at the center, and sired four offspring — Tongas, Kaya, Kordelia and Kobuk — during this time there, Hartman said.
Born in 1984 at the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, Snapper moved to two different aquariums until he was brought to the center in 1998 as part of an effort to understand the decline of the harbor seal population in the Gulf of Alaska.
Snapper participated in a number of research studies, provided hands-on experience for future animal trainers, and was a favorite with visitors. He also took up painting, as one of the SeaLife Center’s “Creative Critters.” Through the enrichment program, Snapper learned how to pick up and move a paintbrush using his mouth, and eventually paint on a canvas.
At 33, Snapper was well into old age — harbor seals typically live until about 30 in the wild. He was euthanized due to age-related complications.