Harbor Seals

Scientific Name:
Phoca vitulina

Feeding Type:

Northern hemisphere, southward to France and Spain, Baja California and Japan

Shallow water and sandy beaches. Inhabit parts of Arctic that are free from ice

Diet in the Wild:


Diet at the Zoo:

Between 25 and 30 years. Males tend to have shorter lifespan, possibly from the stress of fighting during breeding season.

At a glance, harbor seals may look like sea lions but they differ in numerous ways. They have no external earflaps and are usually white-gray to grayish brown in color with spots. Their front limbs are small and hence unable to support their heavy body. They are also relatively smaller and weigh about 300 pounds. They swim with both their front and back flippers.

Seals are shy and spend time alone or in small groups. They have a keen sense of smell and front facing eyes for excellent binocular vision, helpful for chasing fish in the water. They keep their body in a “torpedo” shape when cutting through water, and this streamlined style makes it an efficient, fast, and skilled swimmer, able to make tight and sudden turns. They are more comfortable in the water, and tend to wobble on their bellies while on land.

Young are born in May and June with white to yellowish woolly coats. Twin births are frequent and they suckle. Birth sites often include reefs and rocks on islands far from the coast. Gestation period is 1 year.

Harbor Seals are at a lower risk. They are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) of 1972.