Maggie Prevenas, April 14, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 14, 2007

Species Profiles

Spotted Seal

Studying the spotted seals
Studying the spotted seals

 

Today was our first close encounter with a spotted seal. Spotted seals are the most common ice seals in this area. They are known for their spicy personality.

Where do spotted seals live?

Spotted seals live along the continental shelf of the Beaufort, Chukchi, Bering, and Okhotsk Seas, south to the northern Yellow Sea and west to the Sea of Japan.

How many spotted seals are there?

There is no accurate population count at this time, but it is estimated that there are under 300,000. They are the most common ice seal up in the Bering Sea.

How can I identify a spotted seal?

 

Pups are white and weigh 18 to 26 pounds. This one was a bit heavier.
Pups are white and weigh 18 to 26 pounds. This one was a bit heavier.

Spotted seals are wary and hard to get close to. Adult spotted seals are silvery-gray with dark grey on the back and covered with brown to black irregular spots. Pups are born with a white coat but molt to the adult colors after 3 or 4 months. It is believed they winter in the Bering sea. Following the ice front, they travel north in the spring and summer. They reverse the process and follow the developing ice south in the fall. Spotted seals may get to be 270 pounds, but males and females average 180 to 240 pounds. Length of grown seals is between 4.5 and 5.5 feet. Newborn pups weigh 18 to 26 pounds (8 to 12 kg) and average about 33 inches (84 cm) long.

What do spotted seals eat?

Spotted seals eat many things, depending on the season and their location, including Arctic cod, sand lance, sculpins, flatfishes, cephalopods, and a variety of shrimps.

During the first few weeks after weaning, pups seem to spend most of their time on the ice, but they do not enter the water.
During the first few weeks after weaning, pups seem to spend most of their time on the ice, but they do not enter the water.

How do spotted seals have their young?

Spotted sea pups are born anytime from early February to the first part of May, depending on their location. Pups are white and weigh 18 to 26 pounds. They are nursed for three to six weeks, during which time they more than double in weight. During the first few weeks after weaning, pups seem to spend most of their time on the ice, but they do not enter the water. Spotted seal pups take longer than other ice seals to learn to swim and dive! In the spring, spotted seals will form small groups of a male, female and her pup.

How long do spotted seals live? How do they die?

The life span of spotted seals is believed to be up to 35 years.

The predators of the spotted seal include the polar bear, sharks, Steller sea lions, brown bears, humans and walrus. Wolves, foxes and large birds have been known to feed on pups.

Did You Know? Spotted seal are the only seal that breeds in China!