Scientific Name: Phoca vitulina
General Description: Also known as the Harbour seal this species is a ”true seal” which has a rounded head with no visible ears and V-shaped nostrils. Common seals range in colour from grey, tan, brown and black with darker patterns of spots.
Size: Bulls measure 1.4-1.9 m(4.6 – 6.2ft) long and weigh 55 - 170kg(121 - 345lbs), while cows are 1.2 - 1.7m(3.9 - 5.6ft) long and weigh 45 - 105kg(99 - 231lbs). Pups are 70-100cm (2.3 – 3.3ft) long at birth and weigh 8 - 12kg(17.6 – 26.5lbs).
Longevity: 20-30 years.
Range and Habitat: There are five sub-species of Common seal; Eastern Pacific harbor seal, Western Pacific harbor seal, Western Atlantic harbor, Eastern Atlantic harbor seal and the Ungava seal. All sub-species combined make the Common seal the most widely distributed seal species but are only found North of the Equator. Common seals do not favour any specific resting site for hauling out or breeding as they will do both on everything from rocky to sandy terrain. Common seals are a coastal species and have been known to spend time in rivers and ponds. The Ungava sub-species stays in fresh water.
Diet: Common seals feed on hake, menhaden, herring, anchovy, sea bass, flounder, herring, cod, whiting, sole, shrimp, octopus, mullosks, squid, brook trout and salmon.
Predators: Humans, killer whales, sharks, polar bears, Stellar sea lions. Pups are eaten by foxes, coyotes and large birds of prey.
Population: Estimated at 400-500 thousand.
Reproduction: Cows become sexually mature at 3-4 years of age and bulls at 4-5 years. However, bulls do not achieve social maturity until they are 10-13 years old. In early November bulls arrive at the breeding colonies and set up territories along the shore which they will aggressively defend against rival bulls. Shortly after, pregnant cows arrive and within a couple of days, give birth to a pup. Roughly a week after giving birth cows begin to mate and at the time of impregnation the embryo goes into a form of stasis for four months called delayed implantation. Pups are weaned within nine months but during the dependency period females will leave the pups for up to three days at a time to feed.
IUCN Status: LOWER RISK (LR) - A taxon is Lower Risk when it has been evaluated, does not satisfy the criteria for any of the categories Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable. Least Concern (lc). Taxa which do not qualify for Conservation Dependent or Near Threatened.