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Harbor Seals

Kingdom:

Animalia

Phylum:

Chordata

Class:

Mammalia

Order:

Carnivora

Family:

Phocidae

Genus:

Phoca  

Species:

vitulina


What is taxonomy?

Harbor seals inhabit the costal regions of the North Pacific and Atlantic oceans, and the Arctic regions. They can dive to 1450 feet and stay submerged for 25 minutes. The harbor seal weighs around 180 pounds and are six feet in length. Pups weigh about 24 pounds at birth. Harbor seal pups appear skinny when born and make sounds like they are crying.

Harbor seals inhabit areas that are also frequented by humans and are easily disturbed. When disturbed the mothers sometimes abandon their pups. Do not try to approach them, the mothers will be back soon to take care of them.

Interesting Facts:

  • You can see harbor seals on the North, East, and West coasts of North America!
  • Some harbor seals live, year round, in a few inland lakes and rivers in Canada!
  • Harbor seals tend to stay close to land, one of the reasons for this is so they can haul out and be warmed by the sun!!
  • The Harbor seal pups will more than double their weight in the first month!
  • Within an hour of birth, most harbor seal pups can crawl and swim!

What I should know about harbor seals!

Where do harbor seals live?

In the Pacific Ocean harbor seals extend from northern Japan up the Asian coast and across to Bristol Bay Alaska, down the coast to Baja California, Mexico. In the Atlantic harbor seals extend from France up the European coast to Norway, west to Greenland, Iceland and Canada and down the North American coast to New Jersey. There is also a freshwater population in northern Quebec, Canada.

How many harbor seals are there?

There are believed to be about 500,000 harbor seals worldwide. In 1999 the estimated population of harbor seals in Washington state was about 29,000.

How can I identify harbor seals?

Harbor seals are found along the coasts, near river mouths, on island beaches, reefs and even inland. The coloring of harbor seal can range from silver to red with dark and light spots. When harbor seals haul out hey gather in small groups and usually have their hind flippers raised into the air. When in the water they are usually solitary. Adults can weigh up to 500 pounds and the males are larger than the females. Harbor seals will return to breed in the same locations as they were born.

What do harbor seals eat?

Harbor seals eat crustaceans, squid, fish, and mollusks. They do not chew their food and often swallow it whole.

How do harbor seals have their young?

The mother harbor seal will give birth to one pup . The pups are able to swim within a hour after birth, without this ability many would drown as the tide comes in. The mother is very attentive to its pup . They are weaned in about four to six weeks. After weaning, pups spend an increased amount of time in the water and haul out only infrequently, the pups will leave the birthing area and explore new locations.

How long do harbor seals live? How do they die?

The harbor seal can live to be 30 years old.

It is believed that the 1997-98 El Ñino had adverse effects on harbor seals along the North America coast.  Fishing nets are also a major concern for the harbor seal. Predators include killer whales, sharks, bears, coyotes, foxes, large birds, and Steller sea lions. Sea otters have even been known to drown harbor seal pups.

Where can I find more information about harbor seals?

Go back.


This portion of the MML website is intended for a student audience and their educators.
Information within the education website should not be cited in scientific journals or publications.


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