Harbour Seal

The Facts

  • Genus/Species: Phoca vitulina
  • Conservation Status: Stable
  • Location: The shorelines of the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, in temperate, subarctic, and arctic waters.


Harbor Seal
Harbor Seal
Harbor Seal
Harbor Seal
Harbor Seal
Harbor Seal

The Scoop

Expert Divers

Harbor seals belong to a group of animals known as Pinnipeds. They have no external ear flaps and have short, fur-covered front flippers. The color of their fur varies from black or brown to tan or grey, with light or dark spots. These animals move awkwardly on land, by wriggling their bodies like inch worms do. In the water, harbor seals are in their element. They can dive up to a depth of 1000 feet, and an adult harbor seal can hold its breath for up to 25 minutes. Harbor seals live along coastlines in temperate and arctic waters of the north Pacific and north Atlantic. They sometimes venture into fresh water such as rivers and lakes to feed. Harbor seals rest and raise their pups on sandy and rocky beaches

Harbor seals are usually around 6 feet in length- or as tall as an adult, and can weigh up to 375 pounds which is the weight of two normal adults put together. They eat mostly mollusks like squid and clams, fish and crustaceans. They don't chew their food but swallow it in large chunks. They can crush the shells of clams and prawns with their flat back teeth.

The Harbor seal is an important indicator species. In other words, the health of seal populations can tell us a lot about the health of our marine ecosystems. Populations have increased and none of the harbor seal species are currently endangered.


Did You Know? 

  • Harbor seals have large eyes that are protected by oily “tears” which help the seal see in deep, dark waters.
  • A harbor seal’s hearing is almost 14 times greater under water
  • Harbor seals can detect prey using nerves in their whiskers that sense pressure changes in the water.
  • Harbor seals can sleep underwater. Their nervous system has an automatic shut-off mechanism that prevents them from breathing at inappropriate times. They will surface subconsciously to breathe.


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