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Did you know that California is home to a significant population of harbor seals? In fact, these seals can be found in abundance up and down the state’s coastline. While it’s common to spot them swimming and lounging on the surface of the water, they are also known for sneaking onto land, often surprising passersby. If you’re lucky, you might even see a seal pup playing alongside its mother. Want to learn more about these fascinating creatures? Keep reading!
Harbor Seal scientific name
It is a type of seal found all along the northern coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Though they are commonly called “harbor seals” in English, they are actually found in a wide variety of habitats, including harbors, estuaries, bays, lagoons, and even the open ocean. They are a relatively small species of seal, averaging about six feet in length and 200 pounds in weight. Males are typically larger than females. These seals are generally brown or gray in color, with darker spots on their backs and sides.
They have a thick coat of fur that helps to keep them warm in cold water. The scientific name for this seal is Phoca vitulina. This name comes from the Latin word for “seal,” phoca, and the word for “calf,” vitulina. These seals are sometimes called common seals or earless seals because they lack the long external ears that are characteristic of other seal species. They are generally shy and elusive animals, but they can be curious and approachable at times. They are often seen basking on rocks or swimming in the surf. These seals typically live to be 20-30 years old in the wild.
Harbor Seal physical appearance
These seals are one of the smaller seal species, with adults typically ranging from 4 to 5 feet in length and weighing between 150 and 300 pounds. They have rounded, lithe bodies and relatively small heads, with large eyes set close together. Their front flippers are shorter than their back flippers, and both are tipped with thick claws. They have a thick layer of blubber beneath their fur, which helps to keep them warm in cold water. The fur itself is usually grayish-brown or silver-gray, with darker spots on the head and shoulders.
These seals are capable swimmers and can dive to depths of more than 600 feet in search of fish, squid, and other food. They are also able to spend long periods of time out of the water, hauled out on beaches or ice floes. Unlike some other seal species, these seals do not migrate great distances each year. Instead, they tend to remain in the same general area throughout their lives.
Harbor Seal habitat
These seals are found all along the coasts of the temperate and Arctic oceans. In the summer, they can be found in waters as far north as Alaska and Norway. In the winter, they move to southern waters off the coasts of California and Japan. They prefer to spend their time near the shore, in sheltered bays, estuaries, and inlets. They are also often seen on beaches, where they lie out on the sand to bask in the sun or rest.
During the breeding season, these seals haul out onto land or ice to give birth and raise their young. After giving birth, females fast for a period of time while nursing their pups. Males do not take part in raising the young and typically leave the breeding site soon after mating. These seals are generally solitary animals, although they may gather in groups to haul out or to mate.
Harbor Seal diet
These Seals are opportunistic feeders, and their diet changes depending on what is available. They have been known to eat over 70 different types of prey. Some of their favorite foods include squid, octopus, crabs, shrimp, lobster, fish, and even seagrasses. They will often follow fishing boats in order to steal their catch. In the wild, these Seals typically eat 5-8% of their body weight each day. However, in captivity, they can be fed much less since they do not have to worry about finding food.
Harbor Seal behavior
These seals are found all around the world, from cold polar waters to warm tropical seas. They are highly adaptable creatures, able to survive in a wide range of habitats. Even so, there are some things that all harbor seals have in common. For example, all of these seals are proficient swimmers, and they use their powerful flippers to “fly” through the water.
They are also expert divers, able to hold their breath for up to two minutes at a time. On land, these seals are less graceful, moving about on their belly or by hauling themselves forward with their front flippers. But they are still well-adapted to their environment, using their fur to keep warm in cold climates and their blubber to help them float in water. Regardless of where they live or how they look, all of these seals share a few key behaviors that help them thrive in the marine environment.
Harbor Seal interesting facts
These seals are fascinating creatures that are found all over the world. Here are some interesting facts about these creatures;
- These seals can hold their breath for up to two hours!
- They typically spend most of their time in the water, only coming onto land to rest or give birth.
- They eat a variety of fish, squid, and crustaceans.
- They are capable of swimming at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour!
- These seals have a thick layer of blubber that helps to keep them warm in cold water. Their fur is waterproof, which helps to streamline their body in the water.
- These seals are playful creatures that are often seen “surfing” on waves.
- They are also excellent divers and can dive to depths of up to 1,500 feet!
Harbor Seal reproduction and lifespan
These seals are pinnipeds, a type of mammal that also includes walruses and sea lions. Pinnipeds are distinguished by their flippers, which they use to swim and move on land. They are found all along the coasts of the northern hemisphere. They are relatively small, with adults typically measuring between five and six feet in length. Females tend to be slightly smaller than males.
These seals have a thick layer of blubber, which helps to keep them warm in cold water. Their fur is dark gray or brown, with lighter patches around the neck and sides. These seals reproduce once a year, giving birth to a single pup. Pups are born on land, but they quickly learn to swim. They are weaned at about three months old, but they stay with their mother for several months before becoming independent. Males generally reach maturity at four or five years old, while females mature slightly later, at five or six years old. Once mature, these seals can live for up to 35 years in the wild.
Are harbor seals aggressive?
Research has shown that these seals are peaceful animals and seldom show aggressive behavior. In addition to it, these animal species are considered curious yet shy. These creatures prefer unpopulated areas.
These seals are an amazing sight to see and a joy to watch as they play in the water. While seal watching may seem like a calm and leisurely activity, it is actually quite the opposite. Seal watching can be very exciting and full of action! If you have never had the opportunity to go out and watch these playful creatures, we highly recommend adding them to your list of things to do. Who knows, maybe you will even get lucky enough to see a mom and her pup playing together.