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Harbor Seal

Harbor Seal


Harbor Seal Baby
Harbor Seal Baby

Harbor Seal Habits

The harbor seal spends most of its life in the sea. It lives in groups on the east and west coasts of the Vnited States and Canada, as well as off the coasts of northern Europe, the Soviet Union, and Japan.
The sears streamlined body allows it to swim quickly. It propels itself underwater by moving its rear end from side to side like a sea otter, rather than using its neck and chest as a sea lion does.
On land the harbor seal is slow and awkward, spending little time there except during breeding season. Its front flippers are too small to help maneuver its large body, and the seal must drag itself across sand and rock. If the seal is threatened, it returns to the sea.
At the end of breeding season the harbor seal returns to the water to feed. Groups of seals often travel long distances from their breeding grounds to follow schools of fish. As a new breeding season approaches, the seal eats as much as possible to build up its body fat, called blubber before returning to the breeding grounds.

Harbor Seal Communication

Harbor seals are the least vocal of all pinnipeds. In air, they may snort, hiss, growl, or sneeze - often as a threat to another seal. Harbor seals vocalize mainly underwater.
Pups vocalize more frequently than adults, especially with their mothers. Pups' sheep-like cries are individually distinctive to their mothers.
Mature males vocalize underwater as part of a display during the breeding season.

Harbor Seal Breeding

The harbor seal breeds in June and July. Most breeding sites are located on beaches and rocks that are often visible only at low tide. The female times her arrival at the breeding site to coincide with low tide because the pup (newborn seal) must be born before the site is submerged.
Instead of being born with a first coat of white fur, called Ponape, as other seals are, the harbor seal pup sheds his coat while still in its mothers uterus. Since the pup will be swimming right after birth, it is already well formed at birth. The pup soon develops a layer of blubber and learns to swim. It goes ashore to rest and feed after staying close to its mother in the ocean for the first few days of its life.
The mother suckles her pup for three to four weeks. During this time she eats very little. She then leaves her pup so she can mate with a buff (male seal). Eleven months later the female returns to the same breeding site to bear a new pup.

Harbor Seal Food & Feeding

The harbor seat feeds on a wide variety of fish, such as sole, cod, herring, Oafish, and sand eels. It dives as deep as 100 feet to catch them. It also eats crab, squid, and salmon if other prey is not available.
The sears mouth and nostrils are specially adapted for diving underwater to catch food. Its nostrils and the back of its throat close to prevent water from entering its lungs and stomach. The seal's teeth and jaws are also adapted for catching and carrying prey. The seal brings its prey to the surface and swallows it whole.
Despite the harbor seals reputation for raiding salmon fishing nets, recent studies show that salmon is not a main source of its food.

Harbor Seal Key Facts

              Height: Length: Males, 5-6 feet. Females, slightly smaller
              Weight: Males, 120-230 lbs. Females, 100-190 lbs
             Sexual maturity: Females, 3-4 years. Males, 5-6 years
             Mating: July or early August
             Gestation: 11 months
             Number of young: Usually 1
            Habit: Sociable
            Diet: Wide variety of fish. Also, crabs, shrimp, and squid
            Lifespan: 25-32 years. Females live longer than males



  • Because they live in cold waters, true seals, such as the harbor seal, have a thicker layer of blubber than eared seals.
  • It is estimated that there are approximately 350,000 harbor seals.
  • The crabeater seal is the most abundant seal in the world, with a population of over 14,000,000.
  • The harbor seal is the only northern true seal that always breeds on land, rather than on ice.
  • Harbor Seals are very distant relatives of dogs.

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