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Harbour Seal

Theme area:  Lagoon
Scientific name:  Phoca vitulina
Class:  Mammals
Order:   Carnivores
Suborder:   Pinnipeds
Family:   Phocidae
Continent:  North America
Habitat:  Oceans and seas
Diet:  Piscivore
Weight:  60 - 150 kg
Size:  1.5 - 1.9 m
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Covid Info
European Ex-situ Programme (EEP)

European Ex-situ Programme (EEP)

Of the 18 species of seals, it is one of the smallest. There is no real difference in size between males and females. Their body is tapered. The coat is light in colour with numerous spots that vary in shape and colour.

FEATURES

The male measures 1.6 to 1.9 m with a weight of 70 to 150 kg. It reaches sexual maturity between 4 and 6 years old.  The female measures between 1.5 and 1.7m with a weight of 60 to 110 kg. It reaches sexual maturity between 3 and 5 years old. Newborns are between 80 cm and 1 m in length. They weigh 8 to 12 kg and are weaned between 20 and 40 days after birth.

Their longevity is estimated at 30 to 35 years, with females generally living longer than males.

  

DISTRIBUTION

The temperate and cold coasts of the Atlantic and North Pacific oceans.

The Harbour seal is one of the most widespread pinnipeds in the world. 

It is also native to France.

  

SOCIAL LIFE AND LIFE CYCLE

Harbour seals are solitary animals. Nevertheless, it is possible to find groups of animals that are linked more to an abundance of food resources than to social activity.

Males occupy underwater territories.  They attract females by vocalizing underwater.  Mating takes place in the water.

Gestation is 11 months including 1.5 to 3 months of implantation. This is a period during which the embryo is implanted but does not develop. If the mother's living conditions are good, then fetal development will take place. Births take place from mid-March to early September; females give birth to only one pup per year. The pup loses its lanugo (white or silvery coat typical of the seal family) in the womb and is born with its juvenile coat.

Females ovulate one month after giving birth. Then comes the moult.

Harbour seals come out of the water to rest, moult or nurse their pups.  Extremely cautious and shy on land, they stay close to the water so that they can find refuge there at the first sign of danger. Once in the water, they lose their shyness and are more curious. These animals are not migratory.  Only the search for food can take them away from the coast for several days in a row.

  

HABITAT

Harbour seals live in coastal areas using sandy and shingle beaches, rocky or grassy areas. They are found in bays, rivers, estuaries and tidal areas.

  

SOCIAL LIFE AND LIFE CYCLE

Harbour seals are solitary animals. Nevertheless, it is possible to find groups of animals that are linked more to an abundance of food resources than to social activity.

Males occupy underwater territories.  They attract females by vocalizing underwater.  Mating takes place in the water.

Gestation is 11 months including 1.5 to 3 months of implantation. This is a period during which the embryo is implanted but does not develop. If the mother's living conditions are good, then fetal development will take place. Births take place from mid-March to early September; females give birth to only one pup per year. The pup loses its lanugo (white or silvery coat typical of the seal family) in the womb and is born with its juvenile coat.

Females ovulate one month after giving birth. Then comes the moult.

Harbour seals come out of the water to rest, moult or nurse their pups.  Extremely cautious and shy on land, they stay close to the water so that they can find refuge there at the first sign of danger. Once in the water, they lose their shyness and are more curious. These animals are not migratory.  Only the search for food can take them away from the coast for several days in a row.

  

FOOD

The Harbour seal is an opportunistic predator. It feeds on a wide variety of fish, cephalopods, and crustaceans, which it generally finds at depths of less than 100 metres.

  

THREATS

Since the 1970s, Harbour seals have not been hunted by humans except in Alaska where the indigenous population has the right to kill them for their own consumption.

The Harbour seal shares many coastal areas with humans. Chemical and noise pollution are therefore major threats to this species.

Overfishing can greatly diminish their food resources, in addition to putting them at risk of being caught in fishing nets.

  

WHAT CAN WE DO?

Reduce our waste.

Reduce disturbance around areas used by the species.

Eat fish from eco-friendly fishing.

   

PRESENTATIONS AND ENCOUNTERS

Conservation
Extinct
Extinct in the wild
Critically endangered
Endangered
Vulnerable
Near threatened
Least concern
Insufficient data
Not evaluated

DID YOU KNOW?

Seal pups are famous for being born with white fur called lanugo.

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