The harbor seal lives along the temperate and arctic shores of the Northern Hemisphere. They’re the most extensively distributed pinnipeds in the Northern Atlantic, Pacific, and Baltic Seas. Brown, silvery-white, tan, or gray harbor seals have V-shaped nostrils. Adults can reach 1.85 m (6.1 feet) and 168 kilograms (370 lb.).
Seals’ blubber-covered skin regulates body temperature. Harbor seals tend to stay in rocky areas (ice, sand, and mud may also be employed) close to a foraging area to avoid poor weather and predators. Interested in learning more about the Harbor Seal? Let’s explore 10 incredible harbor seal facts!
1. Harbor Seals Don’t Chew Their Food
Adult harbor seals eat a wide variety of seafood, including squid, crabs, mollusks, and fish such as herring, rockfish, salmon, flounder, sand lance, and hank. Local prey often influences a harbor seal’s seasonal and geographic feeding patterns. Either whole or in parts, they gobble down their food. They use their rear molars to crack open crustaceans and their shells.
2. Harbor Seals Have the Largest Geographical Range of any Species of Seal
Harbor seals live on the west and east coasts in temperate coastal areas of North America, Europe, and Asia. Harbor seals are distributed from the Canadian Arctic to the Mid-Atlantic, and the globe may have 500,000 harbor seals.
3. Harbor Seals Swim in Fresh or Saltwater
For the most part, they don’t venture farther than five miles from their home. Coastal areas, bays, rugged islets, and freshwater lakes have many of these creatures. Harbor seals like rivers, streams, lakes, and ocean waters are their habitats.
4. Harbor Seals have Concealed Limbs
The scientific group Pinnipedia, which also comprises seals, sea lions, and walruses, includes harbor seals. Seals, dogs, and bears have a common ancestry, with top and lower limbs and legs hidden behind their skin. Only their hands and feet protrude beyond the boundaries of their bodies.
5. Like Other True Seals, they have no Ear Flaps
Flippers of seals tend to be shorter and more robust than sea lions, and they don’t have the sea lion‘s distinctive earflaps on their heads. Unlike other true seals, this one does not have an ear flap. The ear canal can be seen behind the eye. On the other hand, harbor seals have a high sense of hearing, especially while submerged.
Instead of ear flaps, harbor seals have an outer ear entry to the ear canal, and it opens and shuts with each plunge. Even though they can hear above and beneath the water, they respond more positively to sound in the atmosphere. The whiskers’ vibrissae move independently of one another.
6. A Mother Seal will Leave her Pup Alone While she Feeds Herself
A pup harbor seal is weaned from its mother and left to fend for itself a few short weeks after birth. Resting on the beach can be common for adolescent seals as they learn how to hunt and gather food. Due to the difficulty of surviving this stage of development, not all puppies do.
Puppies that appear to be abandoned are regularly “rescued” unnecessarily. Thus, it is advisable to leave a baby seal alone and watch it from a distance instead of scaring its mother away.
7. Their Blubber Protects Them From the Temperature
The seals’ blubber under their skin and their fur protects their skin from damage and regulates their body temperature. To keep their body temperature stable in the frigid ocean water, where they spend most of their time, seals put on extra fat in the winter to remain warm. It’s possible that a seal’s fat content can reach up to 30% of its total weight.
8. They can Hold Their Breath for up to 30 Minutes
Harbor seals typically forage as low as 295 feet; however, they have reached depths of up to 1,400 feet. In fact, a normal dive with an adult harbor seal lasts no more than three minutes.
In shallow water, most dives last between three and seven minutes, and they can go further. Adult harbor seals can dive as deep as 1,500 feet and stay submerged for up to 30 minutes. For this, they depend on their extraordinary oxygen storage capacity.
9. Harbor Seals Sleep on Land or in Water
When sleeping, they can float horizontally on the water’s surface or stand like a fishing bobber to keep themselves buoyant and comfortable. Because they are resting instead of swimming, they may stay below the water for far longer compared to when they are seeking food.
Their “bottling” pose involves submerging their entire body so that only their heads are exposed. Because of this, they can take a breath whenever they need to.
10. They Usually Return to the Same Breeding Grounds Every Year
The same mating grounds are frequently visited by harbor seals year after year. During the months leading up to mating, both sexes engage in rituals like spinning, blowing bubbles, and kissing each other’s necks. This pre-mating activity ends as the pupping season begins.
The mating season for each subspecies varies, although it normally begins in late spring and lasts into October. During the mating season, male harbor seals perform underwater dives and vocal demonstrations most likely connected to courtship.
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