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Harbor Seal

Phoca vitulina

Harbor seals, often referred to as common seals, are a species within the Phocidae family and represent a group of earless seals. They sport thick, short fur that varies in color from gray and brown to black. 

Adult males can grow to a length of 5.9-7.5 feet (1.8-2.3 meters) and weigh up to 310 lbs (140 kg), while the generally smaller adult females reach lengths of 5.6-6.9 feet (1.7-2.1 meters) and weigh as much as 240 lbs (110 kg). Their distinctive features include a small head and a short, broad snout.

Harbor seals inhabit coastal areas along the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans, favoring environments with rocky shorelines, sand or mudflats, and estuaries. 

Their adaptability also extends to freshwater habitats, as they are found in some rivers and lakes, enhancing their ecological presence as vital predators in both marine and freshwater ecosystems.

Primarily feeding on a diet rich in fish like herring, sand lance, and cod, harbor seals also consume squid and crustaceans. 

They are skilled divers, capable of reaching depths up to 230 feet (70 meters) to hunt for their prey, showcasing their role as proficient hunters in the marine food chain.

Known for their solitary nature, harbor seals often bask on rocks or sandbars, a behavior that makes them a familiar sight for coastal visitors. They communicate through various vocalizations such as barks and growls and utilize their front flippers to navigate across land or ice. 

This adaptability in communication and movement highlights their evolved traits to thrive in diverse habitats.

Scientifically classified as Phoca vitulina, harbor seals belong to the order Carnivora and class Mammalia. They are differentiated into several subspecies, including the North Atlantic harbor seal (Phoca vitulina vitulina), the Baltic Sea harbor seal (Phoca vitulina concolor), and the North Pacific harbor seal (Phoca vitulina richardsi). 

While the IUCN lists the harbor seal as “least concern,” indicating a stable global population, regional subspecies continue to face challenges such as hunting, pollution, and habitat loss, which could threaten their local populations.
© By Arnie Lund - Stock.Adobe.Com
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© By Arnie Lund - Stock.Adobe.Com