Common Seal

Seal swimming

Seal swimming

Seals on land

Seals on land

A seal relaxing on a rock.

A seal relaxing on a rock.

A seal pup

A seal pup

A seal swimming

A seal swimming

Map of distrubution

Map of distrubution

 

Taxonomy

Scientific name: Phoca vitulina. 
Order: Carnivora. 
Family: Phocidae. 
Genus: Phoca.

 

IUCN Status

Least concern.

 

Other names

Harbour seal.

 

Appearance

Common seals can grow between 1.2 meters to 1.6 meters. The main distinguishing features are they have a shorter, blunter head, “v” shaped nostrils, and a short body and flippers. Their fur colour varies between blonde to black, but they are normally grey with dark spots. Common seals also have long whiskers on the side of their face.

 

Habitat and distribution

Common seals are found around the coasts of Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Eastern Scotland. They are often seen resting on rocky shores, sandy beaches and mud flats, are known to swim upstream into large rivers and estuaries when in pursuit of prey.

 

Behaviour

When out of the water, they are sometime seen holding their body in a curved position. Common seals can spend several days out at sea, staying underwater for up to 10 minutes and diving to depths of at least 50 meters. These seals are solitary animals, and only come together for breeding.

 

Confusion with other species

Common seals can be mistaken with Grey seals. Grey seals are larger animals, and their muzzle is long and straight, resembling a dog.

 

Threats

In the Shetland Isles, seal pups were hunted for their skin, but this was banned in the 1970s, and continue to receive protection. However, if the fishermen have a license, they can kill them if they are causing damage to fishing gear or taking fish out of nets.


Common seals often become entangled in litter, including fishing gear. Other threats to common seals being stricken by ships, which can often cause injury, as well as habitat degradation.

 

Interesting facts

After a few hours, the pups can swim and dive in the ocean.

 

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