Harbour seal - biology fast facts

Common Name:

harbour seal, common seal

Scientific Name:

Phoca vitulina

Body size:

Males: 1.4-1.9m, 55-170 kg
: 1.2-1.7m, 45-105 kg

Life expectancy:

Males: up to 20-25 years
Females: up to 30-35 years

Vocal Behaviour:

Probably the least vocal of all pinnipeds.
Males roar underwater to attract mates. They may snort, hiss, grow, or sneeze when threatened

Physical Characteristics:

Vary in colour from black, brown, gray or tan, with darker patches. Pelage is unique to the individual.
Relatively large head with a short body and flippers


Fish, cephalopods (squid and octopus) and crustaceans (shrimp and crabs)

Foraging Behaviour:

Make short regular dives, usually to less than 100m, inshore


The most widely distributed pinniped; haul out onto rocky shores, mud flats, sandy beaches, and log booms; may also inhabit fresh water; do not tend to travel more than 20km from the shore


Inhabit the waters of the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans


Courtship and mating take place underwater. Females give birth to a single pup. Pup is born in an advanced state of development, and can crawl and swim within a few hours of birth. Mother will mate again immediately after weaning.


There are no current population estimates for Pacific white-sided dolphins. In the early 1990s it was estimated that their entire population consisted of 1,000,000 individuals and the most recent survey in BC, which was published in 2007, estimated that 25,000 individuals live in BC waters.


Conservation status:

Are not endangered, although their tendency to stay in the same area for the majority of the year has meant that some local populations have disappeared, such as in the Gulf of Alaska.

See: Species At Risk Public Registry