Harbor Seal

Scientific Name:
Phoca vitulina
male: 1.4 - 2.0 m (4.6 - 6.6 ft); female: 1.2 - 1.7 m (3.9 - 5.5 ft)
male: 70 - 170 kg (155 - 375 lbs); fermale: 50 - 150 kg (110 -330 lbs)
good to go
Crustaceans, mollusks, squid, and a variety of fish


Physical characteristics

The harbor seal has a blunt snout and a round head, and their whiskers grow from their upper lips. They do not have external earflaps and are unable to pull their hind flippers under themselves. In order to move, they must shuffle their bodies to get around on land.

Behavioral characterization

They are usually found to be solitary, unless in mating season. Then they are found in groups in rookeries along the coastlines.


Found in temperate, subarctic, and arctic coastal areas on both sides of the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans.

Population size

Approximately 350,000 to 500,000


White sharks and orcas

Migration/Dispersal patterns

Do not migrate.

Social system/Group size

Adults are usually solitary and do not interact with each other rather than to mate. Sometimes the seals will haul out together in a loosely organized group. This is with both sexes and ages. The seals do not usually touch each other when hauled out and if they do they usually growl or head-butt each other. Young harbor seals usually play with each other on the fringes of the group and mostly stay away from the adults.

Major threats

Hunted by humans. This is primarily for their skin, oil and meat; sometimes used to make jewelry and trinket. They are also often taken from the wild to be used as test subjects for experimental research. Several fish species that harbor seals eat is usually commercially fished, so the seals are also entangled in fishing nets.

Research efforts

Tracking to see if Glaciers melting in Alaska negatively affects harbor seals. Done through sampling crittercams and body condition.

Fun fact

There are five different sub-species of harbor seals found throughout the northern oceans in the Pacific and Atlantic.