Grey Seal

Chilling on land

Chilling on land

Poking head out of the water

Poking head out of the water

Chilling on a rock

Chilling on a rock

Female seal

Female seal

Male seal

Male seal

Seal pup

Seal pup

Map of distrubution

Map of distrubution

 

Taxonomy

Scientific name: Halichoerus gypus. 
Order: Carnivora.
Family: Phocidae. 
Genus: Halichoerus.

 

IUCN Status

Least concerned.

 

Other names

True seals.
Earless seals.
Atlantic seals.

 

Appearance

Grey seals can grow up to 3 meters in length. They are grey with dark patches; the males have darker patches, whereas the females are silver grey to brown. Grey seals have a long head with a sloping nose, which is very similar to most domestic dogs. The pups are born with white fur.

 

Distribution and habitat

It is estimated that there is a population of 290,000 to 300,000 of grey seals worldwide, and the UK population of grey seal is estimated to be 40% of the worldwide population.

Grey seals are found all around the UK, includingg Scotland, Wales and Ireland. They are often found in areas where disturbance is minimal, including rocky shores. 

 

Behaviour

Large colonies of grey seals have been observed breeding on sandy dunes on the Lincolnshire coast.


These animals are known to be exceptional swimmers, and can dive down to about 70 meters before the surface. It has been known for them to stay underwater for up to 16 minutes. 


They communicate with other seals by slapping their fins together.

 

Confusion with other species

Harbour seals: grey seals are large and they have a more sloping head, but are very similar in colour.

 

Threats

Seals around the UK are under protection of the Conservation of Seals act of 1970; however, this does not apply to Northern Ireland, and recently some fishermen have begun to ask about if they are able to kill seals again as the number of seals is affecting the number of fish being caught. 

Grey seals do often become entangled in discarded fishing gear, and often ingest plastic waste. 

 

Interesting facts

During the breeding season, female grey seals form a strong bond with their pups, and the mothers can recognise their pup by their call and scent. 

Grey seals use their webbed flippers to propel themselves through the water, while using their tail to steer. They also have very powerful shoulder muscles which they use to haul themselves onto steep and slippery rocks. ​

 

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