Harbor seal

Phoca vitulina

Harbor seals are around 6 feet long and weigh about 220 pounds. Harbor seals can have several different fur colorations including tan, grey, dark grey, light grey (silver), and usually have spots or dark speckles. A harbor seal’s diet consists of mainly medium-sized fish, cephalopods (such as squid) and crustaceans (such as shrimp, krill, or crabs). Harbor seals can be found commonly in coastal areas, hauled out on beaches. Hauling out is when seals pull themselves onto beaches or rocks to lay in the sun. They do this to warm themselves up or to catch a break from swimming. Harbor seals can also be found bottling, which is when seals float in the water with their nose sticking straight up towards the sky so their head looks like a bottle with the rest of their body underwater. Harbor seals can sleep in this position too! Harbor seals are a protected species and as harbor seals like to hang out on beaches, please leave them alone and do not go within 150 feet or more of a seal!

Click here to  visit the New England Aquarium harbor seals. 

Click here to learn about taking care of harbor seals.

Click here to experience molting season at the New England Aquarium.



Gray seal

Halichoerus grypus

Gray seals are about 7 feet long. Male gray seals can weight around 800 pounds, while female gray seals can weigh around 500 pounds. As their name states, gray seals are silver in coloring with darker spots of gray or black. gray seals are also well known for their distinctive horse-shaped head. gray seals have a wide diet of schooling fish, sand eels, cephalopods (such as squid or octopus), mollusks (mussels), or even sea birds or other small marine mammals. Gray seals can be seen gathering in rocky or sandy beaches in larger groups during mating, pupping, or molting season. They often stay in areas that are uninhabited or have little interaction by humans. They will haul out or stay on shore for periods of time to lay in the sun. Otherwise, you can find gray seals swimming in small groups or alone.

Click here to check out a live cam gray seal pupping on Seal Island off the coast of Maine.



Harp seal

Pagophilus groenlandicus

Harp seals are around 6 feet long and weigh about 275 pounds. Adult harp seals have a dark face, usually black or dark gray, with a large black spot that stretches across their back or smaller dark spots. The diet of a harp seal can range widely and can cover upwards of 130 different species of fish and crustaceans. Harp seals are know to be ice seals, which means that they usually use iced over areas or large pieces of ice to haul out or lay on. This also means that in Maine, we usually only see harp seals during the winter season when many of the rivers and coastal locations become locations of ice formation. Harp seals migrate in large groups but can usually be seen in Maine as individuals.

Fun Fact: Harp seals change color and pattern about five different times throughout their lifetime. 



Hooded seal

Cystophora crsitata

Hooded seals are around 8 feet long and range widely in weight from 400 pounds upwards of 730 pounds. Hooded seals change quite a bit between when they are pups to adulthood. Hooded seal pups are nicknamed “bluebacks” because pups have a cream white underside and a dark blue-grey back. As adults, hooded seals are silver or gray coats with dark gray to black spots. Male hooded seals are known for their nose which as a hood cavity that can be inflated with air to attract females. Hooded seals diet consists of squids and fish, along with occasionally crustaceans when younger. Hooded seals are also ice seals, which means that they stay on pack ice more most of the ice, usually individually and not in large groups. Hooded seals are listed as a vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List.



Ringed seal

Pusa hispida hispida

The ringed seal is a mostly solitary ice seal. They can often be found on “shore-fast ice” or making snow caves. Although variable in fur color, adult ringed seals can be identified by the white irregular ring patterns on their coat. Coat may be grey, tan, or brown. Pups are born with a longer, white lanugo coat. After their first molt, their fur is dark grey dorsally and silver ventrally. Juveniles with this coat are called “silver jars.” Adults can reach 1.10-1.65 m in length while pups are 60-65 cm. These seals eat a variety of fish, cephalopods, fish, and crustaceans. Their lifespan averages at 50 years, with males reaching sexual maturity at 7 years old and females reaching sexual maturity at 5.5-6 years. The IUCN lists the ringed seal under least concern.

Fun Facts: There are five recognized subspecies: the Arctic ringed seal, Okhotsk ringed seal, Baltic ringed seal, Lake Ladoga seal, and Saimaa seal. Their axillary girth can reach up to 80% of their length.



Image credit: Ansgar Walk

 Atlantic walrus

Odobenus rosmarus

Atlantic walrus are typically found on the margins of ice shelves. They are the second largest pinniped, after the northern elephant seal. Males exhibit sexual dimorphism, reaching up to 3.6 meters while females average 3 meters. Males use their tusks in mating displays and in defense against other walruses. Walruses lighten with age, becoming more reddish on land both due to thermoregulation and possibly also UV exposure. Calves are darker with “slate-grey fur.” They prey upon mollusks such as clams as well as invertebrates that live on seafloor or in the sediment. Their lifespan is approximately 40 years. Males reach sexual maturity at 6-10 years of age while females are sexually mature from 4-10 years of age. They are listed by the IUCN as vulnerable, but on the brink of “near threatened.”

Fun Facts: Their scientific name means, “tooth-walking sea-horse.” Their tusks are canine teeth which grow throughout their lifetimes. Males have larger tusks than females. “A pair of elastic pharyngeal pouches can be inflated with air and provide flotation when the walrus is resting in the water.”

Click here to learn more about Atlantic walruses.