Facts and Knowledge:

The harbor seal, or common seal, breeds on the slopping beaches at the mouths of rivers.  It streamlined shape allows it to move rapidly through the water. The harbor seal is perfectly adapted to a life in water.  Its specked, grayish black coat of fur gives it surprisingly good camouflage in the coastal waters of the northern seas where it lives, and its thick blubber protects it from the cold.

Habitats: The harbor seal spends most of its life in the sea.  It lives in groups on the east and west coasts of the United States and Canada, as well as off the coasts of northern Europe, the Solviet Union, and Japan.  The seal's streamline body allows it to swim quickly. It propels itself underwater by moving its rear end from side to side like a sea otter, rather than using it neck and chest like the sea lion does.  On land the harbor seal is slow and awkward, spending little time there except during breeding season.  Its front flippers are too small to help maneuver its large body, and the seal must drag itself across sand and rock.  If the seal is threatened, it returns to the sea.  At the end of breeding season the harbor seal returns to the water to feed.  Groups of seals often travel long distances from their breeding grounds to follow schools of fish.  As a new breeding season approaches, the seal eats as much as possible to build up its body fat, called blubber, before returning t the breeding grounds.

Breeding: The harbor seal breeds in June and July. Most breeding sites are located on beaches and rocks that are often visible only at low tide.  The female times her arrival at the breeding site to coincide with low tide because the pup (new born seal) must be born before the site is submerged. Instead of being born wit h first coat of white fur, called lanugo, as other seals are, the harbor seal pup sheds his coat while still in its mothers uterus.  SInce the pup  will be swimming right after birth, it is already well formed at birth.  The pup soon develops a layer of blubber and learns to swim.  It goes ashore to rest and feed after staying close to its mother in the ocean for the first few days of life.  The mother suckles her pup for three  to four weeks. During this time she eats little.

Food & Feeding:  The harbor seal feeds on a wide variety of fish, such as sole, cod, herring, flatfish, and sand eels. It dives as deep as 100 feet to catch them.  It also eats crab, squid, and salmon if other prey is not available. The seals mouth and nostrils are especially adapted fir diving underwater to catch food.  Its nostrils and the back of its throat close to prevent water from entering its lungs and stomach.  THe seals teeth and jaws are also adapted for catching and carrying prey.  The seals bring its prey to the surface and swallow it whole.  Despite the harbor seals reputation for raiding salmon fishing nets, recent studies show that salmon is not a main source of its food.

Nature Watch: The harbor seal mainly inhabits the waters of the northern Pacific and Atlantic oceans.  It is the most visible of all seal species found in the North American Waters.  The harbor seal often prefers to rest on a sand bar at the mouth of a river or near a harbor entrance. Its seems to be unafraid of humans and often allows people to move close.

Key Facts: Sizes, Weight, breeding, lifestyle, related Species

Length: Males, 5 to 6 ft, females slightly smaller
Weight: Males 120 to 230 lbs, females 100 to 190 lbs

Sexual maturity: Male 5 or 6  years, Female 3  or 4 years
Mating: July or early August
Birth: The following June or July

Habit: Scalable, Hauls out (comes ashore) to rest and breed
Diet: Wide variety of fish. Also Squid, crabs, shrimp.
Life span:  25 - 32 years. Females lives longer than males

Related species: There are 7 seal species in the genus Phoca, including the ringed seal (P. hispida) and the harp seal (P. groenlandica).
Distribution: Inland waters of the northern oceans.
Conservation: Because of the harbors seals apparent liking for commercially hunted fish such as salmon, large numbers were killed in the 1960's.  Public outcry brought a halt tot he slaughter. The harbor seal is now protected by law, although it may be killed if it is caught raiding fish nets.

The Characteristics of the Northern Fur Seal:
Besides the huge difference in size the MALE and FEMALE, the heavier male has a massive neck with especially thick fur.
The layer of fatty tissue beneath the fur helps conserve heat and streamlines the body for swimming.
Both the male and female northern fur seals live on their blubber during the breeding season.
Because the animals are crowed together at the breeding sites.  Newborn fur seals are often trampled to death by fighting males.

Did you know:
Because they live in cold waters, true seals, such as the harbor seal, have a thicker layer of blubber than eared seals.
It is estimated that there are approximately 350,000 harbor seals.
The crab eater seal is the most abundant seal in the world, with a population of over 14,000,000.
The harbor seal is the only northern seal that always breeds on land. rather than on ice.

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