Grey/Gray Seal

ANIMAL:
Grey/Gray Seal Halichoerus grypus

Type of Animal:
True Seal

Habitat:
Cold temperate/subarctic/polar waters-coastal waters, rocky coasts, islands, sandbars, ice shelves, icebergs, ice caps, rocks near shore, ice beaches, sandy beaches, rocky beaches, reefs, intertidal zones, pelagic zones, ice floes, caves, mostly saltwater but sometimes seen in brackish & even fresh water

Location(s):
3 populations/subspecies-W N Atlantic ranging from Labrador to N Carolina; E N Atlantic found in British Isles, France, Low Countries, Iceland, Scandinavia, Faroe Islands, far NW Russia, & bordering Arctic Ocean; & Baltic Sea population/subspecies

Appearance:
Males typically dark gray w/ silver-gray spots mostly on belly & distinct arched nose, males also thicker/bulkier, females typically silver-gray w/ scattered dark spots, spots often more noticeable on females, pups born w/ creamy-white fur (lanugo) fading at 3 weeks & becoming darker, males larger than females

Food/Diet:
Fish (including small sharks), mollusks, crustaceans, seabirds. Large males have been seen feeding on harbor seals, harbor porpoises, & pups of own species.

Status in Wild:
Stable

Conservation:
Breeding in aquariums, marine parks, zoos, & breeding centers. Extra protective measures for Baltic population.

Lifestyle:
Found in loose groups of 10-600 animals. Breeding colonies/rookeries can have as many as 6,000 animals. Each territorial male has harem of around 10 females. Rookeries consist of many harems as well as all-male bachelor groups, all female groups, & mixed-sex groups.

Additional Info:

Called:
Male: Bull
Female: Cow
Young: Pup
Group: Colony

Weight:
Male: 485-880 lbs
Female: 330-550 lbs
Young: 180 lbs

Gestation:
11 months 

Life Span:
25 years in wild, 35-40 years in captivity

Height:
Male: 5 ft
Female: 4 ft

Body Length:
Male: 7-10 ft
Female: 5.9-7.5 ft
Young: 4 ft

Tail Length:
Male: 2 ft
Female: 1.8 ft

Main predators of adults are sharks, orcas/killer whales, polar bears, & wolves. Bald & White-Tailed Sea Eagles as well as occasionally, adult male gray seals, prey on pups.
 
W Atlantic population breed/pup in winter, E Atlantic population breed/pup in fall, Baltic population breed/pup in late winter/early spring.
 
Sexually mature at 3 years old.
 
To move on land, they either roll or alternately shift weight from chest to pelvic region.
 
When not breeding/molting, migrate far from rookeries & can spend days at a time out at sea.

Fun Fact(s):
Can dive as deep as 1,000 ft.
 
They can swim as fast as 23 mph but prefer cruising at 6 mph.
 
Cries of pups similar to human baby crying.
 
Breeding males & moms w/ pups often stay ashore entire breeding season, feeding off fat reserves-often results in fasts lasting up to 3 weeks for females & up to 7 weeks for males (who are more preoccupied w/ defending breeding territory).
 
Sometimes called “horseheads” due to male’s appearance. Scientific name also alludes to male’s appearance, meaning “hook-nosed sea pig.”

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