Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina)

Species:P. vitulina
Harbor seal
Harbor seal

So, harbor seal is the main focus of this article. On the West & East Coasts of the United States, harbour seals are one of the most common marine mammals. They often rest with their head and back flippers up in a “banana-like” position on rocks and beaches along the coast or on floating ice in glacial fjords.

Harbor seals were seen as competition for fishermen, so the government paid bounty hunters to kill them in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, and Maine. In 1960, this hunting programme was over. This is why many people want to know about seal harbor Maine.

Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, harbour seals and all other marine mammals are safe from being hurt or killed.

Fun Facts About Harbor Seal

  • The scientific order Pinnipedia is where harbour seals, sea lions, and walruses all fit in. Seals are different from sea lions in a number of ways. Their flippers are shorter and thicker, and their ears aren’t flapped.

  • Unlike most other pinnipeds, harbour seals usually live alone and don’t talk to each other very often. One exception is the strong bond between mother and pup that lasts until the pup is weaned. When adults are hauled out, they stay at least 1 metre (3 feet) apart. Harbor seals don’t talk much, but they might snort, growl, lunge, scratch, or make other aggressive moves if someone threatens them.

  • When they swim, harbour seals move their back flippers back and forth. A harbor seal can stay underwater for up to 28 minutes and dive as deep as 295 feet (90 metres), but they usually hunt for food in shallower water.

  • Most harbour seal babies are born between February and July along the Pacific coast. The fully grown pup may be up to 39 inches long and weigh 12 kg (26 lbs.). A puppy will nurse for 4–6 weeks. Its mother’s milk, which can have up to 45 percent milk fat, helps the puppy gain more than twice its weight by the time it is ready to stop drinking it.

  • Killer whales, great white and Greenland sharks, and maybe other types of sharks, Steller sea lions, walruses, eagles, gulls, and ravens are all known to eat them.

Where Does A Harbor Seal Live?

Harbour seals throughout the northern shores of North America, Europe, and Asia are present in their preferred temperate coastal environments. The East & West coastlines of the United States are affected. Harbour seals inhabit the East Coast from the Arctic to the Middle Atlantic. From Baja, California, and Mexico, up to the Bering Sea, harbour seals live on the shores of the Pacific, which lies on the western coast of North America.

Although they usually remain within 15–31 miles of their birthplace, tracking data shows they may move as far as 62–486 miles from their tagging location. This is likely to take advantage of seasonally available food or to give birth to pups.

What Does Harbor Seal Look Like?

Harbor seals are seals, like all other seals. All true seals’ front legs, or flippers, are short. They also don’t have flaps on the outside of their ears. Instead, each side of their head has a small hole that leads to the ear canal.

Harbor seals can be up to six feet long. Moreover, they weigh up to 285 pounds. Male seals are slightly bigger than female seals, and seals in Alaska and the Pacific Ocean are usually bigger than seals in the Atlantic Ocean.

Harbor seals have short, dog-like snouts. Each seal’s fur is different, but there are two basic patterns: a light tan, silver, or blue-grey background with dark spots or specks or dark background with light rings. In the middle to late summer, harbour seals moult or lose their hair. During this time, they spend more time out of the water.

Harbor Seal Behaviour and Diet

Harbor seals rest on rocks, reefs, beaches, and moving glacial ice when they are not travelling or looking for food at sea. They haul out to cool down, lose their skin, meet other seals, give birth, and care for their young. These seals also haul out in groups in order to stay safe from predators. So they don’t have to keep an eye out for them as much as seals that haul out alone.

Harbor seals can’t walk on land like sea lions because their pelvic bones stick together. This means that they can’t move their back flippers under their pelvis. Instead, they move by moving back and forth like a caterpillar. They are not hurt if they act this way.

Harbor seal pups are born able to swim. They can also dive for up to two minutes when they are only two or three days old. Furthermore, by the end of their first month, they travel more than 100 miles from where they come out of their mother’s womb. Mother harbour seals sometimes raise their pups in nurseries, groups of mothers, and they’re young, that help protects the seals from predators.

Most of what a harbour seal eats are fish, shellfish, and crustaceans. When hunting, harbour seals can do both shallow and deep dives, depending on where the food is. They can sleep underwater and come up every 30 minutes to breathe.

Lifespan & Reproduction

Harbor seal
Harbor seal

Between 3 and 7 years old, harbour seals become sexually mature. Females usually have babies in the spring and summer, but the time of year that they do so depends on where they live. Puppies are born earlier in the south than in the north along the West Coast. The only exception is that harbour seals in Washington’s inland waters are born two months later than seals on Washington’s coast.

Harbor seals have their babies in the water. About ten months pass while a female is pregnant. Puppies weigh about 24 pounds and can swim within minutes. They feed on milk that is 50% fat for 4 to 6 weeks. Seal pups haul out to rest and keep their body temperature stable, just like adults do. During lactation, adult females look for food.

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Harbor Population Status

The harbor seal falls under the Least Concern category right now. Twelve of these stocks are in Alaska, & the other four are in California, the coastal waters of Oregon and Washington, the inland waters of Washington, and the western North Atlantic.

In Alaska, there are the Aleutian Islands, North Kodiak, South Kodiak, the Pribilof Islands, Bristol Bay, Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet/Shelikof Strait, Glacier Bay/Icy Strait, Dixon/Cape Decision, Lynn Canal/Stephens Passage, Sitka/Chatham Strait, and Clarence Strait stocks. A small group of freshwater harbour seals that live in Iliamna lake in Southcentral, Alaska, are part of the Bristol Bay stock in Alaska.

Over the past 30 years, the numbers in each stock keeps on changing in different ways. Stocks are stable on the West Coast, and New England’s population seems stable. Besides, there can be thousands of separate nesting and moulting colonies in some of these places.

Most of Alaska’s 12 harbour seal populations have been stable or growing over the past eight years. However, seal populations in the Aleutian Islands, Glacier Bay, and Icy Strait are likely to have gone down. In the Pribilof Islands, there are less than 500 harbour seals. This number seems to be stable.

Threats For Harbor Seal

Illegal Feeding and Harassment

Harbor seals can become habitual when someone feeds them illegally. Thus, it results in making them aggressive, hurting fisheries, hurt, or even killing them. Harassment, like boat traffic and other disturbances over and over again, can hurt harbour seals’ important nursery, moulting, and haulout areas.

Greater boat traffic can also cause people to act differently, use more energy, and face stress. In Alaska, for example, boat traffic can move seals off of ice floes. This puts seal pups at risk because they spend more time in cold water and have a good distance from their mothers.

Habitat Degradation

Loss and degradation of habitat are great threats to harbour seals. Important migratory, breeding, eating, moulting, or pupping habitats may be inaccessible due to physical barriers such as shoreline and offshore structures for development (such as for oil and gas, dredging, and pile driving). Oil and gas development, commercial and recreational development (including resort development), and increasing vessel traffic are potentially displacing seals and their prey.


Harbor seals can get caught in fishing gear and other kinds of trash in the water. They can swim away with it. They can get caught in gillnets, trawls, purse seines, and weirs, among other types of fishing gear. Seals can drown if they can’t get to the surface to breathe, or they can drag gear behind them for long distances as they swim. This can tire them, cause them to lose their ability to feed or get hurt seriously, all of which can affect their ability to reproduce or even kill them.

FAQs: Harbor Seal

Harbor seal
Harbor seal

What Is A Harbor Seal?

The harbour seal is a genuine seal. Short flippers characterise true seals. They also have no external ear flaps, just a little aperture in the side of their skull that leads to the ear canal. An adult harbour seal can grow to be as tall as 6 feet and as heavy as 285 pounds.

Are Harbour Seals Aggressive?

Harbour seals are gentle and non-aggressive unless during the breeding season. Harbour seals are curious but reticent. They prefer secluded beaches.

Are Harbor Seals Friendly?

Some harbour seals are friendly and lively, while others are wary and reserved, just like any other intelligent marine species. Within a few hours of birth, harbour seal pups are able to swim and dive.

What Is The Difference Between A GREY Seal And A Harbour Seal?

The two species’ coat patterns (or “pelage”) are distinct from one another. While harbour seals’ markings tend to be fairly consistent in size and shape, grey seals’ are larger and more asymmetrical. As a general rule, male grey seals have darker fur than females.

What To Do If A Seal Approaches You?

Relax and watch what happens. Keep your cool and move gently so as not to alarm the seals, which could lead to a defensive reaction. Rest, keep in mind that seals are harmless animals unless you threaten them.

Do Harbor Seals Bite?

While adults of the harbour seal species are typically solitary, they have been observed using communal haulouts. They stay away from one another when hauling out. They growl, snort, head butt, scratch, or even bite if they come into contact.

Why Do Harbor Seals Slap The Water?

Pectoral flippers are used for aggression displays and courting displays by harbour seals.

Why Do Seals Cry?

Any seal that appears inert and has no evident injuries, entanglements, or protruding ribs should be left alone. In order to keep their eyes moist, seals constantly produce tears. The common misconception is that this is an eye infection. That’s to be expected, so don’t fret.

How Deep Can A Harbor Seal Dive?

The harbour seal’s body perfectly suits to a marine environment. Although most of their dives are less than 65 feet (20 metres) deep and last no more than four minutes, they may dive to depths of up to 1640 feet (500 metres).

Do Harbor Seals Jump Out Of Water?

Seals’ “porpoising” activity, in which they jump in and out of the water at tremendous speeds, is what caused the incident. The seals were probably trying to get a closer look at the kayakers because they are curious and lively animals.

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