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Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina)

Harbor seals inhabit coastal and estuarine waters off Baja California, north along the western coasts of the United States, British Columbia, and Southeast Alaska, west through the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands, and in the Bering Sea north to Cape Newenham and the Pribilof Islands. They haul out on rocks, reefs, beaches, and drifting glacial ice, and feed in marine, estuarine, and occasionally fresh waters. Harbor seals generally are non-migratory, with local movements associated with such factors as tides, weather, season, food availability, and reproduction. However, some long-distance movements of tagged harbor seals have been recorded, mostly among juvenile animals. The harbor seal breeding season follows a cline along the coast of North America, with pups born earlier in the south than in the north; the only exception is harbor seals in the inland waters of Washington which are born 2 months later than seals at the same latitude along the coast. There is little sexual dimorphism in harbor seals; adult males are 1.4 to 1.9 m long and weigh up to 140 kg; females are 1.2 to 1.7 m and weigh up to 80 kg.; pups are 7 to 8 kg at birth.

MML Research Recent MML Harbor Seal Publications
  • CHRISTMAN, C. L., and P. L. BOVENG. 2019. Aerial surveys of freshwater harbor seals in Iliamna Lake, Alaska: 2017–2018. AFSC Processed Rep. 2019-03, 18 p. Alaska Fish. Sci. Cent., NOAA, Natl. Mar. Fish. Serv., 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle WA 98115.  Online.
  • BOVENG, P. L., J. M. Ver HOEF, D. E. WITHROW, and J. M. LONDON. 2018. A Bayesian analysis of abundance, trend, and population viability for harbor seals in Iliamna Lake, Alaska. Risk Anal. Early Online.   Online.
  • ORR, A. J., T. A. NORRIS, C. GÁLVEZ, A. C. DEMING, and F. R. ELORRIAGA-VERPLANCKEN. 2018. First extralimital record of an Eastern Pacific harbor seal (Phoca vitulina richardii) pup at Guadalupe Island, Mexico. Aquat. Mamm. 44: 279-284.  Online.
  • JANSEN, J. K., G. M. BRADY, J. M. Ver HOEF, and P. L. BOVENG. 2015. Spatially estimating disturbance of harbor seals Phoca vitulina. PLoS ONE 10:e0129798. (Open Access).  Online.
  • Search the AFSC database for additional Harbor Seal publications
Recent MML Harbor Seal Posters
  • Monitoring the Small and Remote Population of Harbor Seals on Otter Island in the Pribilof
    2.05 MB  Online.
  • Location, Location, Location: Is the Largest Harbor Seal Haulout in the World Any Different From the Others?
    10.97 MB  Online.
  • Harbor Seal Movement, Dive, and Haul-Out Behaviors Near Adak Island, Alaska
    1.69 MB  Online.
  • Search the AFSC database for additional Harbor Seal posters
Harbor Seal Stock Assessment Reports
MML Education Web (these pages are targeted toward students!) Management Harbor Seal Images Other links

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