Harbor Seals (Phoca vitulina)
Harbor seals can be seen throughout the northern coasts of North America, Europe, and Asia. They are the most common marine mammal in our region; they are not migratory and stay within 50 miles of home. Seals extensively use shoreline habitat for thermoregulating, resting, pupping, nursing, and molting. They feed on rockfish, cod, herring, flounder, salmon, and a plethora of benthic and pelagic species of fish. Harbor seals reach sexual maturity at 3-7 years and gestation lasts approximately 10 months. Nurseries provide protection for pups and mothers nurse their young for 4-6 weeks and milk is 50% fat. Seal pups are temporarily left on shore while their mother forages for food. If you see a seal pup alone on the beach, it is not abandoned! The best thing to do is stay 100 yards away from the animal, harbor seal mothers are shy and will not return if there are disturbances around the pup. A required 48 hour observation time is necessary to determine if the pup is being attended by the mother or if it has been abandoned. Haul out at night and during the day; they have the ability to sleep underwater and come up for air once every 30 minutes, they are unable to sleep at the surface of the water. On land harbor seals are very awkward, they are unable to move their hind limbs forward to create a “walking” motion, and instead it is a "caterpillar" motion. Locomotion on land is accomplished by wriggling undulations using mainly the front flippers, the hind limbs cannot be rotated forward and are dragged behind. This does not mean they are injured.
To report a dead, injured or stranded marine mammal, please call: 1-800-853-1964