Habitat and Distribution: Found near piers and beaches along temperate subarctic and Arctic coasts on both sides of the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans.
Size: 4.5-6.5 feet; 120-370 pounds. Males are larger than females.
Wild Diet: Fish, crustaceans, squid, octopuses, shrimp, and shelled mollusks.
Predators: Sharks, killer whales, polar bears, and humans.
Life Span: 20-30 years
Reproduction: Harbor seals return to the same breeding grounds every year and usually breed in the water. Males attract females by showing off vocal or diving capabilities and fighting other males. Gestation is 9-11 months with a single pup born each year (twins are rare). Newborn pups weigh about 25 pounds and bond with their mothers within the first hour. They are nursed for 4 weeks with high-fat milk that enables rapid growth and are weaned after 4-6 weeks.Behavior: Harbor seals can dive underwater in search of food for 3-5 minutes. They hunt alone but can be found in groups for breeding and when hauled out on land. They may haul out to sleep, sunbathe, avoid predators, socialize, or give birth. They tend to haul out on sandy or rocky beaches that are uncovered at low tide.
Harbor seals are widespread along a great range, but some subspecies (Phoca vitulina stejnegeri and Phoca vitulina mellonae) are on the brink of extinction. The main threats to harbor seals are fishing gear, oil spills, chemical pollution and harassment by humans. They are also hunted for their blubber, meat, fur, and skin. They have been protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) since 1972.
Did you know?
- If you see a seal pup on the beach, your should leave it alone and keep your distance. A mother may it on shore to go fishing (young harbor seals can’t swim), but she will soon return to care for her pup.
- They have large eyes with flattened corneas that allow them to take in more light and see well underwater.
- Their whiskers detect sound waves, which helps them locate prey.