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Harbor seal - m/p

Phoca vitulina


Adults up to 5 feet, males and females same size, wide short muzzle nostrils forming a V (gray seals have longer snouts and nostrils form a W). Pelage (fur) patterns vary vastly from very dark with white spots, white with dark spots or plain white bellies. Between May and beginning of August, on the east coast of USA, seals molt their fur getting very dull and brownish. Pups are born in early May through early June and are weaned in 28 days or less. They can swim from birth.


Coastal waters and rivers. Will climb out (haul out) on rocks at low tide or even high tide, if the rocks stay above the tide, to rest and pup, often gathering in large groups. They feed at river mouths and along shore line catching fish as they come out on the ebbing tide, but also can be seen 20-30 miles offshore feeding. They usually feed alone but can be found feeding in larger groups herding schools of fish.


I am very careful when I paddle out to my observation rock because Harbor seals when on rocks are particularly nervous about kayaks and canoes. The tide had gone out so far that I was sure the seals had left before they got stranded.... ooops this mother and pup were hidden behind a ledge and we startled each other equally. Glad I had my camera out though... but regretted scaring her.

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galewhale..Gale 8 years ago

Oh by the way did you notice that the moms right eye is sunken. Seals can do fine with partial vision and even blind.

galewhale..Gale 8 years ago

Thanks Laura! It was a fortuitous mistake... I usually avoid getting that close but just drifted around a corner and there they were.... ready to flee.

LauraMaria 8 years ago

Oh, now that is just the most precious photo... how absolutely adorable, Gale!

Spotted by

Maine, USA

Spotted on Mar 13, 2011
Submitted on Mar 13, 2011

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