Grey seal

Halichoerus grypus

The grey seal is found on both shores of the North Atlantic Ocean. It is a large seal of the family Phocidae or "true seals". It is the only species classified in the genus ''Halichoerus''. Its name is spelled gray seal in the US; it is also known as Atlantic grey seal and the horsehead seal.
Grey seal Around December on one of the beaches of Vlieland (an island at the north of The Netherlands) seals bring up their offspring. The newborn pups are white. After about five weeks they start to get their adult colours and from that moment on, they are able to swim. Geotagged,Grey seal,Halichoerus grypus,Netherlands

Appearance

It is a large seal, with the bulls reaching 2.5–3.3 m long and weighing 170–310 kg ; the cows are much smaller, typically 1.6–2.0 m long and 100–190 kg in weight. Individuals from the western Atlantic are often much larger, with males reaching 400 kg and females weighing up to 250 kg . It is distinguished from the harbor seal by its straight head profile with nostrils that are well apart, and fewer spots on its body. Bull Greys have larger noses and a more convex profile than common seal bulls. Males are generally darker than females, with lighter patches and often scarring around the neck. Females are silver grey to brown with dark patches.
Young grey seal In December on the beaches of Vlieland (an island at the north of the Netherlands) gray seals bring up their offspring. The newborn pups are white. After about five weeks they start to get their adult colors and from that moment on, they are able to swim. Grey Seal,Grey seal,Halichoerus grypus,Seal,gray seal,wadden sea,waddenzee

Naming

There are two recognized subspecies of this seal:
⤷ ''Halichoerus grypus grypus''
⤷ ''Halichoerus grypus macrorhynchus'', synonymously known as ''H. grypus balticus''.
New born grey seal This new born grey seal was born on Chrismas night. This photo of "Christmas child" was taken on December 25. Hence the umbillical cord. Around December on one of the beaches of Vlieland (an island at the north of The Netherlands) seals bring up their offspring. The newborn pups are white. After about five weeks they start to get their adult colours and from that moment on, they are able to swim. Geotagged,Grey seal,Halichoerus grypus,Netherlands

Distribution

In Great Britain and Ireland, the grey seal breeds in several colonies on and around the coasts. Notably large colonies are at Donna Nook , the Farne Islands off the Northumberland Coast , Orkney and North Rona off the north coast of Scotland, Lambay Island off the coast of Dublin and Ramsey Island off the coast of Pembrokeshire. In the German Bight, colonies exist off the islands Sylt and Amrum and on Heligoland.

In the Western North Atlantic, the grey seal is typically found in large numbers in the coastal waters of Canada and south to about New Jersey in the United States. In Canada, it is typically seen in areas such as the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Newfoundland, the Maritimes, and Quebec. The largest colony in the world is at Sable Island, NS. In the United States it's found year round off the coast of New England, in particular Maine and Massachusetts, and slightly less frequently in the Middle Atlantic States. Its natural range extends south to Virginia.

An isolated population exists in the Baltic Sea, forming the ''H. grypus balticus'' subspecies. One case of occurrence was registered in the Black Sea near the coasts of Ukraine


During the winter months grey seals can be seen hauled out on the rocks, islands, and shoals not far from shore, and occasionally coming ashore to rest. In the spring the recently weaned pups and yearlings occasionally strand on beaches after becoming "lost."
Young grey seal Around December on one of the beaches of Vlieland (an island at the north of The Netherlands) seals bring up their offspring. The newborn pups are white. After about five weeks they start to get their adult colours and from that moment on, they are able to swim. Geotagged,Grey seal,Halichoerus grypus,Netherlands

Status

In the United States grey seal numbers are increasing rapidly. Up until 1962, Maine and Massachusetts had bounties on seals so that only a few isolated colonies of grey seals remained in Maine. Then in 1972 Congress passed the Marine Mammal Protection Act that prevented harming or harassing seals, and grey seal populations rebounded. For example there is a large breeding colony near Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where pups rebounded from a handful in 1980 to more than 2,000 in 2008. By 2009, thousands of grey seals there had taken up residence on or near popular swimming beaches when Great White Sharks started hunting them close to shore. Also grey seals are seen increasingly in New York and New Jersey waters, and it's expected that they will establish colonies further south.

In the UK seals are protected under the Conservation of Seals Act 1970, however it does not apply to Northern Ireland. In the UK there have also been calls for a cull from some fishermen, claiming that stocks have declined due to the seals.

The population in the Baltic Sea has increased about 8% per year between 1990 and the mid-2000s with the numbers becoming stagnant since 2005. As of 2011 hunting grey seals is legal in Sweden and Finland with 50% of the quota being used. Other anthropogenic causes of death include the drowning in fishing gear.
Grey seal, mother and child This baby seal is two days old and sleeping after drinking milk. The milk of a seal is as fatty as butter. This is neccesary to give the pup the layer of fat that is needed to survive in the cold. The blood stains around the mouth of the mother are from after giving birth when she cleaned the newborn. Geotagged,Grey seal,Halichoerus grypus,Netherlands

Habitat

In Great Britain and Ireland, the grey seal breeds in several colonies on and around the coasts. Notably large colonies are at Donna Nook , the Farne Islands off the Northumberland Coast , Orkney and North Rona off the north coast of Scotland, Lambay Island off the coast of Dublin and Ramsey Island off the coast of Pembrokeshire. In the German Bight, colonies exist off the islands Sylt and Amrum and on Heligoland.

In the Western North Atlantic, the grey seal is typically found in large numbers in the coastal waters of Canada and south to about New Jersey in the United States. In Canada, it is typically seen in areas such as the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Newfoundland, the Maritimes, and Quebec. The largest colony in the world is at Sable Island, NS. In the United States it's found year round off the coast of New England, in particular Maine and Massachusetts, and slightly less frequently in the Middle Atlantic States. Its natural range extends south to Virginia.

An isolated population exists in the Baltic Sea, forming the ''H. grypus balticus'' subspecies. One case of occurrence was registered in the Black Sea near the coasts of Ukraine


During the winter months grey seals can be seen hauled out on the rocks, islands, and shoals not far from shore, and occasionally coming ashore to rest. In the spring the recently weaned pups and yearlings occasionally strand on beaches after becoming "lost."
Grey seal in sand storm Around December on one of the beaches of Vlieland (an island at the north of The Netherlands) seals bring up their offspring. The newborn pups are white. After about five weeks they start to get their adult colours and from that moment on, they are able to swim. Geotagged,Grey seal,Halichoerus grypus,Netherlands

Reproduction

The pups are born in autumn in the eastern Atlantic and in winter in the west, with a dense, soft silky white fur; at first they are small and shrivelled-looking, but they rapidly fatten up to look like over-filled barrels, from the extremely fat-rich milk they receive from their mothers. Within a month or so, they shed the pup fur and grow the dense waterproof adult fur, and soon leave for the sea to learn to fish for themselves. In recent years, the number of grey seals has been on the rise in the west and in Canada there have been calls for a seal cull.
Grey Seal Farne Islands,
Northumberland,
08/05/2015 Grey Seal,Grey seal,Halichoerus grypus

Food

The grey seal feeds on a wide variety of fish, mostly benthic or demersal species, taken at depths down to 70 m or more. Sand eels are important in its diet in many localities. Cod and other gadids, flatfish, herring and skates are also important locally. However, it is clear that the grey seal will eat whatever is available, including octopus and lobsters. The average daily food requirement is estimated to be 5 kg , though the seal does not feed every day and it fasts during the breeding season.

References:

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Status: Least concern
EX EW CR EN VU NT LC
Taxonomy
KingdomAnimalia
DivisionChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCarnivora
FamilyPhocidae
GenusHalichoerus
SpeciesH. grypus