09/02/1998 -- Seals Yield to Silver at Depoe Bay Landmark

Labor Day, 1998, will be the last time that local residents and visitors to Depoe Bay will be able to feed the seals at the Aquarium that has been delighting children and adults for 73 years.

Built in 1925 by H. L. Collins, the aquarium is today the oldest privately owned aquarium in the U.S., said Talley Woodmark, Co-owner with her husband John, who also owns the Blue Heron Gallery in Depoe Bay.

Collins later built the Crescent City Aquarium in California - Which was destroyed in 1964by a tidal wave - and the Seaside Aquarium here in Oregon that is still operating today.

"At one time," Woodmark said, "the Aquarium had the oldest living seal ever recorded. Oscar was 37 when she died. She had been named after the fellow who brought her in, and in those days no one knew how to tell the sex of a seal."

Woodmark said the Depoe Bay Aquarium has always had tremendous success with the rehabilitation of harbor seals and sea lions.

"The animals in the aquarium are now all over 20 years old," she said, "and all of them were found crippled in the wild. We took them in, nursed them back to health, and have continued caring for them all these years. They get regular vet checkups, all the fresh fish they can eat and love the attention from our family and the public that they seem to thrive on."

Ringer is one of the seals that have enjoyed a long life of barking loudly when visitors arrive. She was named for the deep cut around her neck that left a scar, after being found trapped in a gill net 20 years ago. "Her wound took over 6 months to heal." said Woodmark.

Interacting with visitors and living off several pounds of fresh fish daily is Boe. Boe is 21 years old and was brought to the aquarium as a pup. A tourist had found him on the beach being attacked by a seagull that had already pecked out one of his eyes.

"Boe has lived a long and happy life here," said Woodmark. "And those same tourists today would face a $25,000 fine and one year in prison for helping the injured seal pup."

Another 20-year resident of the aquarium is Sally. She was brought in very ill, infested with tapeworms, and "would have died" Woodmark said.

"We are very happy and relieved to have found a home for all our marine animals," said Woodmark. "And we know they will be well cared for."

So what will be happening at the corner of hwy 101 and Bay Street after Boe, Ringer, and Sally leave, and the Depoe Bay Aquarium closes its doors for the last time?

Tally Woodmark's eyes lit up, as she appeared to be visualizing the opening of her fine art gallery, appropriately named the Silver Heron Gallery.

"This gallery will be mine alone, and offer art never before seen on the Oregon Coast." said Woodmark, flashing a bright smile, "it is going to be like a canvas where I can showcase the creative energies of well-known artists, both local and from throughout the world, and also showcase original works of art from my private collection"

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