Scientific Name: Pusa hispida
General Description: In Newfoundland and Labrador, they also go by the name jar seal. The Inupiat call them "natchek", whilst the Yupik-speaking Inuit of the Bering Strait call them "niknik". There are other Inuit names also, depending on the condition of the seal, including "netsiak" (whitecoat), "netsiavinerk" (silver jar), "netsilak" (adult), and "tiggak" (breeding male). It is named for the black spots on its back, ringed with light marks. Colouration varies but the basic pattern is a grey back with black spots and a light belly.
Size: Ringed seals are among the smallest of seals, with adults rarely exceeding 1.5 m in length and 68 kg in weight. Their weight is at its maximum in winter and early spring when their blubber is thickest, then declines with the decrease in feeding during the reproductive and moulting season.
Longevity: 30-35 years
Range and Habitat: Ringed seals are the most common and widespread seal in the Arctic, occurring across the circumpolar region. They are non-migratory. In Alaska, they inhabit the northern Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas. They have been found as far south as the Aleutian Islands. During winter, they are most abundant close to shore in the shorefast ice, and as a result have been important in the economy of the coastal Inuit.
Ringed seals generally occur in association with sea ice. However, some are seen during ice-free periods in the Bering and Chukchi seas. Seals appear at various coastal locations with the formation of shorefast ice in the fall. They disappear in the spring with the ice breakup. Seals wintering in the Bering Sea probably summer in the northern Chukchi Sea or Arctic Ocean. The density of ringed seals varies greatly with the area and the season.
Diet: Ringed seals eat a variety of invertebrates and fish. The particular species eaten depends on availability, depth of water, and distance from shore. Important food species in various regions include Arctic cod, saffron cod, smelt, herring, crustaceans, zooplankton, squid and sculpins.
Predators: Humans, polar bear, arctic and red foxes, walrus, dogs, wolves, wolverines and ravens.
Population: The total population is estimated at close to 5 million, of which between 1.5 and 3 million inhabit the Nunavut region.
Reproduction: Cows give birth to a single pup in snow dens on either landfast or drifting pack ice in March and April. Those that give birth on landfast ice build lairs in pressure ridges or under snowdrifts for protection from predators and weather. Pups born on drifting pack ice are more prone to polar bear predation, and there is some evidence suggesting mothers that give birth here are inexperienced.
Males may be territorial during the breeding season.
Pups weigh 4.5 kg at birth and have white coats. They are nursed for about 2 months, during which time they double their weight. Weaning usually takes place at ice breakup.
Most cows breed again within a month after giving birth. Implantation of the embryo is delayed until mid-July or early August. Pregnancy lasts about 11 months. Most cows first ovulate at 5-6 years of age and first give birth at 6-8 years old. Bulls become sexually mature at the same age.
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.