Harbor seals are “pinnipeds.” That means they have flippers instead of feet! While they are clumsy on land, they are powerful and very acrobatic swimmers in the water. In fact, they spend about half their time in the water and half on shore.
Seals can sleep underwater.
They can dive very deep----up to 1000 feet, but usually much shallower----and can hold their breath for 25 minutes.
They eat up to 6% of their body weight a day. That’s the equivalent of about 50 quarter lb hamburgers!
They don’t bark like sea lions and are usually quiet and very shy. Baby seals are called “pups” and make a cry that sounds like “maaaaa.” Click here to listen to a baby seal.
A harbor seal pup can swim and dive shortly after birth.
Seals have very sensitive hearing, so please be quiet if you are watching one rest onshore.
Harbor seals are as smart as your dog (even smarter than some breeds)! In fact, seals evolved from prehistoric animals very similar to dogs and used to have legs instead of flippers. So, they are Fido's distant cousins!
Etienne, age 8, from Seattle wants to know: "What is the most likely way for a seal to get injured?"
"Dear Etienne, Seals are food items on the menu of large sharks and killer whales (orcas). That is one way to get injured....or eaten! On the beach, seals can be targets of land "predators" (seals are "prey" animals) such as bears, wolves, coyotes and eagles. Fishing nets are a very serious risk for seals (and other sea life) and can injure us as we struggle to get free ~ and often hold us under water until we drown. Seals are injured by high speed boats that run into us, so boaters need to slow down and watch out for marine mammals. Trash on the beach and in the water is a danger for us because we think it's food and can die from eating it. Chemicals that pollute our waters make us sick. Yikes, now that I think about it, there's lots of risks for us out there! Why, seals are even sometimes illegally shot by people who blame us for eating fish. Hey, we've gotta eat, too! Thanks for helping to protect us.
Flipper hugs, Spud"
Do you have a question for Spud? If so, email him here. Please let Spud know your name and age (and thanks to our seal interpreters!).
BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS Seals, other marine mammals and their exotic underwater world are the subject of many children's books, both fiction and non-fiction. Leopard and Silkie (One Boy's Quest to Save the Seals) is based on the true story of the friendship of two seal pups who shared the shore in West Seattle. Seal Sitters' co-founders, Brenda Peterson (National Geographic author) and Robin Lindsey (photographer) wrote the children's book, as well as the early reader edition, Seal Pup Rescue. Read more about the books, the backstory and how children can protect wildlife here.
One of Seal Sitters' favorites is Water Beds: Sleeping in the Ocean,a dreamy tale of how marine mammals sleep as seen through a young boy's eyes. Adult seals and their pups are able to sleep underwater because their nostrils close, but they still need to surface at regular intervals to breathe. This photo shows a pup snoozing in the water while mom watches nearby. In The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling writes a short story "The White Seal" about a baby seal who is moved to a remote beach to keep him safe from human harm. Read the story in its entirety here. Included in the tale is a lullaby sung by a mother seal to her pup. "Seal Lullaby" (often called "White Seal Lullaby") has been recorded by a number of popular musical artists, including Judy Collins and Shawn Colvin:
Check back soon for fun stuff for kids. To download NOAA's very fun seal activity page, click here.
YOU CAN HELP! Trash on beaches and in the water (such as plastic bags and balloons) is often mistaken for food by marine mammals and sea birds. Once eaten, the animal can suffer a slow and painful death. Please pick up any trash you find and you may save a life. Mrs. Baker's second grade class in Seattle organized a class field trip to clean up trash on a local beach. Ask your teacher if your class can organize one, too. You can make a difference and help save our marine wildlife.
Ryo, age 5, from Philadelphia asks Spud: "Do you know any seals in Japan?"
"Dear Ryo, Seals live all over the world! In Japan alone there are many different species of seals, including harbor seals like me. So, I have lots of friends and relatives in the Far East. Since I live in Puget Sound, we stay in touch by email!
Flipper hugs, Spud"
Click on the seal above to visit our children's art gallery!
To send Spud a drawing of seals or sea lions, click here. Please include your name, age and submit up to two drawings. All images must be 72dpi jpgs.