Interesting facts about the Harp Seal

These beautiful mammels known as Harp seals are also sometimes called saddleback seals. This is due to the dark, saddlelike markings on their back and sides covering the light yellow or grey bodies.

Between the months of February and April they will gather together on the ice of the eastern Canadian coast around Newfoundland, the Greenland Sea, and the White Sea.

The male seals will fight eachother with sharp teeth and powerful flippers to win their mating partner.

When the newborn pups are born their coat has a yellowish tint, but turns completely white after a few days. Over the following two weeks they will completely shed this fluffy white fur and their new coat of grey will replace it.

If a predator like a polar bear is nearby, the white fluffy pup lies perfectly still, tucking its head into its chubby neck and slowing its heart rate down from between 80-90 to 20-30 beats.

The pup will grow 4 times it’s size within the first weeks, whilst feeding on it’ mother’s milk, which is very rich and this adds lots of blubber to the pup’s body.

By the time the pup is two weeks old it is strong enough to look after itself, and it will learn how to swim, find food and be ready for sea life.

Small groups of around 20 harp seals will travel around 8,000km each year. They spend their summers feeding in the northern Arctic waters before heading south to breed in February.

Harp seals are quite slow on land but they are very fast in water. They can stay submerged under water for up to 15 minutes whilst hunting for food. Plus they can dive down more than 240m, they actually dive 30m in 15 seconds.

Harp seals go through lots of changes during their lifespan and by the time it reaches 14 months old, the nicknames have changed too. For instance, from being call a ‘whitecoat’ at birth to a greycoat, ragged jacket, beater and finally a bedlamer.

By the time Harp seal is 4 years old it has a silvery grey coat with spots, so it becomes known as the spoted harp. Whereas some of the females remain like that, most males and some females develop a black harp shaped splodge on their back, hence their name.

Adult seals gather together underwater during the night and “chat”. They do this by whistling, grunting, using knocks, beeps and bird like chirping.

The way a mother seal will recognise her pup amongst the thousands of other harp seals is by way of smelling it’s breath. The mother seal will go underwater at night to socialise with other adult seals and when she comes back she will sniff the pup’s nose and know instinctively by way of smell which pup is hers.

There are around 9 million harp seals worldwide which is a definite increase. Unfortunately though, with the rising global temperatures, making the ice melt and the waters warmer, this could threaten the breeding season for the seals, also these seals are hunted for the meat and fur, so they are at rish continually.