Background Check: Get to know Townsend and his harbor seal friends!

harbor seal

We’ve all gotten to know Townsend during his visit here at the National Marine Life Center. Let’s get to know a little bit more about him and his harbor seal friends as we await the next update!

The harbor seal is relatively small when compared to other species of seals around the world. They can be found in coastal waters throughout the oceans across the world including the Arctic, Atlantic, and the Pacific. In fact, many of them can be seen right here in New England.

Harbor seals are usually brown, tan, or gray in color and can be distinguished from other seals by their V-shaped nostrils.  The round spindle-shaped body of the seal is usually spotted on the dorsal surface and nearly spotless on the underside. An adult harbor seal can grow to a length of approximately 6 feet. Females are generally slightly smaller than the male harbor seals.

Harbor seals are carnivorous, which means they are strictly meat eaters. They prey on fish such as sea bass, herring, cod, and menhaden and also shrimp, squid, and mollusks. However, harbor seals do not chew their food. Instead, they tear off chunks at a time or skip that step and swallow it whole!

Often, harbor seals can be found basking in the sun or catching up on their sleep during low tide on beaches, rocks, logs, or spits. They are considered quiet and shy animals and will jump back in the water and swim away at the slightest sign of danger.

Photo Credit: NOAA

Most seal pups are born between February and July also known as pupping season. This period can vary within different regions around the world. The seal pups are usually about 2 feet long and weigh about 24lbs. When spotted, they appear abandoned but this is not the case. The mother seal will be back for her pup. It is very important that these seal pups are not touched nor disturbed. Ideally, spectators are asked to stay a minimum of 100 feet away.

Know who to call in the event of a seal or other marine animal stranding! For more information, please visit: How You Can Help!