Harbor seal

Phoca vitulina

The harbor seal, also known as the common seal, is a true seal found along temperate and Arctic marine coastlines of the Northern Hemisphere. The most widely distributed species of pinniped, they are found in coastal waters of the northern Atlantic, Pacific Oceans, Baltic and North Seas.
Seal Delighted to have been treated to this seal this morning at Newtown Harbour Geotagged,Harbor (common) seal,Phoca vitulina,Summer,United Kingdom,isle of wight,seals

Appearance

Individual harbor seals possess a unique pattern of spots, either dark on a light background or light on a dark. They vary in colour from brownish black to tan or grey; underparts are generally lighter. The body and flippers are short, heads are rounded. Nostrils appear distinctively V-shaped. As with other true seals, there is no pinna. An ear canal may be visible behind the eye. Including the head and flippers, they may reach an adult length of 1.85 m and a weight of 55 to 168 kg. Females are generally smaller than males.
Sealed with those eyes - Common or Harbour Seal - Phoca vitulina Saw this beautiful seal on a trip up the east coast of the Isle of Lewis, Scotland. Common Seal,Harbor (common) seal,Harbour Seal,Phoca vitulina,Scotland

Naming

The five proposed subspecies of "Phoca vitulina" are:
Balancing Act  Canada,Geotagged,Harbor (common) seal,Phoca vitulina,Summer

Distribution

There are an estimated 350,000–500,000 harbor seals worldwide. While the population is not threatened as a whole, the Greenland, Hokkaidō and Baltic Sea populations are exceptions. Local populations have been reduced or eliminated through disease and conflict with humans, both unintentionally and intentionally. Killing seals perceived to threaten fisheries is legal in Norway, and Canada, but commercial hunting is illegal. Seals are also taken in subsistence hunting and accidentally as bycatch. Along the Norwegian coast, bycatch accounted for 48% of pup mortality. Killing or taking seals has been illegal in the United Kingdom since 1 March 2021.

Seals in the United Kingdom are protected by the 1970 Conservation of Seals Act, which prohibits most forms of killing. In the United States, the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 prohibits the killing of any marine mammals and most local ordinances, as well as NOAA, instruct citizens to leave them alone unless serious danger to the seal exists.
Mom and baby! This mother Harbour Seal was away from her baby till we got closer with our boat. She then quickly made sure she was between us and her youngster. Very protective! Canada,Geotagged,Harbor (common) seal,Phoca vitulina,Summer

Behavior

Harbor seals are solitary, but are gregarious when hauled out and during the breeding season, though they do not form groups as large as some other seals. When not actively feeding, they haul to rest. They tend to be coastal, not venturing more than 20 km offshore. The mating system is not known, but thought to be polygamous. Females give birth once per year, with a gestation period around nine months. Females have a mean age at sexual maturity of 3.72 years and a mean age at first parturition of 4.64. Both courtship and mating occur under water. Researchers have found males gather under water, turn on their backs, put their heads together, and vocalize to attract females ready for breeding. Pregnancy rate of females was 92% from age 3 to age 36, with lowered reproductive success after the age of 25 years.

Birthing of pups occurs annually on shore. The timing of the pupping season varies with location, occurring in February for populations in lower latitudes, and as late as July in the subarctic zone. The mothers are the sole providers of care, with lactation lasting 24 days. The single pups are born well developed, capable of swimming and diving within hours. Suckling for three to four weeks, pups feed on the mother's rich, fatty milk and grow rapidly; born weighing up to 16 kilograms, the pups may double their weight by the time of weaning.

Harbor seals must spend a great deal of time on shore when molting, which occurs shortly after breeding. This onshore time is important to the life cycle, and can be disturbed when substantial human presence occurs. The timing of onset of molt depends on the age and sex of the animal, with yearlings molting first and adult males last. A female mates again immediately following the weaning of her pup. Harbor seals are sometimes reluctant to haul out in the presence of humans, so shoreline development and access must be carefully studied in known locations of seal haul out.

In comparison to many pinniped species, and in contrast to otariid pinnipeds, harbor seals are generally regarded to be more vocally reticent. However, they do utilize non-harmonic vocalizations to maintain breeding territories and to attract mates during specified times of year, and also during mother and pup interactions.

Annual survival rates were calculated at 0.91 for adult males, and 0.902 for adult females. Maximum age for females was 36 and for males 31 years.
Harbor (common) seal - Phoca vitulina Spiggie Beach (Shetlands, Scotland). Geotagged,Harbor (common) seal,Phoca vitulina,Spring,United Kingdom

Habitat

Harbor seals prefer to frequent familiar resting sites. They may spend several days at sea and travel up to 50 km in search of feeding grounds, and will also swim more than a hundred miles upstream into fresh water in large rivers in search of migratory fish like shad and likely salmon. Resting sites may be both rugged, rocky coasts, such as those of the Hebrides or the shorelines of New England, or sandy beaches, like the ones that flank Normandy in Northern France or the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Harbor seals frequently congregate in harbors, bays, sandy intertidal zones, and estuaries in pursuit of prey fish such as salmon, menhaden, anchovy, sea bass, herring, mackerel, cod, whiting and flatfish, and occasionally shrimp, crabs, mollusks, and squid. Atlantic subspecies of either Europe or North America also exploit deeper-dwelling fish of the genus "Ammodytes" as a food source and Pacific subspecies have been recorded occasionally consuming fish of the genus "Oncorhynchus". Although primarily coastal, dives of over 500 m have been recorded. Harbor seals have been recorded to attack, kill and eat several kinds of ducks.
Sealed with Eyes South Lochs Isle of Lewis - Harbour Seal - Phoca vitulina Two species of seal can be found around the islands, the Atlantic Grey Seal and the Common Seal, or Harbour Seal as it is alternatively known. Both these names are descriptive and tell you a little something of how to identify them. Grey Seals are largely dark grey although occasionally they are paler or russet in colour they tend to be less variable than Common Seals which are often intricately spotted helping them blend into rocks.

As adults, Grey Seal have a large 'Roman' nose which leads to them occasionally being known as horse heads. Both males and females show this distinctive head shape although it is more pronounced in the bulls.

Common seals on the other hand are much gentler looking and appear to have a head resembling a Golden Retriever. They also frequently adopt this characteristic 'banana posture' that Grey Seals don't hold so much or for any length of time.

https://www.western-isles-wildlife.com/mammals_outer_hebrides.html

 Fall,Geotagged,Harbor (common) seal,Phoca vitulina,United Kingdom

Reproduction

Harbor seals are solitary, but are gregarious when hauled out and during the breeding season, though they do not form groups as large as some other seals. When not actively feeding, they haul to rest. They tend to be coastal, not venturing more than 20 km offshore. The mating system is not known, but thought to be polygamous. Females give birth once per year, with a gestation period around nine months. Females have a mean age at sexual maturity of 3.72 years and a mean age at first parturition of 4.64. Both courtship and mating occur under water. Researchers have found males gather under water, turn on their backs, put their heads together, and vocalize to attract females ready for breeding. Pregnancy rate of females was 92% from age 3 to age 36, with lowered reproductive success after the age of 25 years.

Birthing of pups occurs annually on shore. The timing of the pupping season varies with location, occurring in February for populations in lower latitudes, and as late as July in the subarctic zone. The mothers are the sole providers of care, with lactation lasting 24 days. The single pups are born well developed, capable of swimming and diving within hours. Suckling for three to four weeks, pups feed on the mother's rich, fatty milk and grow rapidly; born weighing up to 16 kilograms, the pups may double their weight by the time of weaning.

Harbor seals must spend a great deal of time on shore when molting, which occurs shortly after breeding. This onshore time is important to the life cycle, and can be disturbed when substantial human presence occurs. The timing of onset of molt depends on the age and sex of the animal, with yearlings molting first and adult males last. A female mates again immediately following the weaning of her pup. Harbor seals are sometimes reluctant to haul out in the presence of humans, so shoreline development and access must be carefully studied in known locations of seal haul out.

In comparison to many pinniped species, and in contrast to otariid pinnipeds, harbor seals are generally regarded to be more vocally reticent. However, they do utilize non-harmonic vocalizations to maintain breeding territories and to attract mates during specified times of year, and also during mother and pup interactions.

Annual survival rates were calculated at 0.91 for adult males, and 0.902 for adult females. Maximum age for females was 36 and for males 31 years.
Lunch Time! Junior must have been hungry! Mom decided the best place for the picnic was on the beach in front of our house. Lucky us. Phoca vitulina richardsi Canada,Geotagged,Harbor (common) seal,Phoca vitulina,Summer

Food

Harbor seals prefer to frequent familiar resting sites. They may spend several days at sea and travel up to 50 km in search of feeding grounds, and will also swim more than a hundred miles upstream into fresh water in large rivers in search of migratory fish like shad and likely salmon. Resting sites may be both rugged, rocky coasts, such as those of the Hebrides or the shorelines of New England, or sandy beaches, like the ones that flank Normandy in Northern France or the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Harbor seals frequently congregate in harbors, bays, sandy intertidal zones, and estuaries in pursuit of prey fish such as salmon, menhaden, anchovy, sea bass, herring, mackerel, cod, whiting and flatfish, and occasionally shrimp, crabs, mollusks, and squid. Atlantic subspecies of either Europe or North America also exploit deeper-dwelling fish of the genus "Ammodytes" as a food source and Pacific subspecies have been recorded occasionally consuming fish of the genus "Oncorhynchus". Although primarily coastal, dives of over 500 m have been recorded. Harbor seals have been recorded to attack, kill and eat several kinds of ducks.

References:

Some text fragments are auto parsed from Wikipedia.