Gray Seal – Halichoerus grypus
The Gray Seal is one that many people have seen in pictures. It is found along the North Atlantic Ocean on both sides of it. This is a medium sized seal when it is full grown. The males are almost twice as large as the females. They can be up to 10 feet long. And weigh up to 900 pounds.
There are some spots along the body but they tend to fade as they get older. They also have nostrils that are spread very far apart on their face. They can range in color from a medium brown to a very dark gray.
You will find the Gray Seal has many locations out there that it calls home. They tend to prefer places where there aren’t very many people. They feed in cold current waters so that is a necessity. When they aren’t in the water they enjoy being on the sand and rocky terrain. Others can be found living in colder regions where they climb out of the water to relax on sheets of ice.
The Gray Seal feeds on a variety of different types of fish that live in the water. They are great divers so if they can’t find enough food at the surface they will have no trouble going on a search for it. They will also consume herring and eels if they come across them in the water. Some of the larger ones have even been known to consume octopus and lobster.
They tend to consume around 10 pounds of food per day when they feed as adults. They don’t feed daily though so that amount could be every other day or every third day. During the mating season they can fast for weeks at a time by living on the blubber that they have built up.
The time of year when the pups are born depends on where they live. The females dig areas and find out of the way locations to prepare for the birth of their pup. The mothers feed them milk that is close to ½ fat. This allows them to grow rapidly as well as to build up their own layers of blubber very early on. They can’t enter the water for about a month when they get the waterproof fur. Until then they depend on their mother’s for the food supply they need. Weaning takes place at about 3 weeks of age.
It isn’t uncommon for the females to breed again immediately after they have weaned their pup. This is one reason why the females don’t seem to live as long as the males. It certainly takes a toll on their bodies to carry a pup for 10 months, nurse, and then to start all over without any recovery period.
Many of the males are at least 8 years of age before they are able to successfully mate. That is due to the fierce competition among them. Only the strongest of the males are able to breed with the females.
It appears that the number of Gray Seals out there is slowing increasing. This is due to the awareness and education programs that various conservation organizations have presented. However, they are still listed as an endangered species. They are presently protected in the USA under the Marine Protection Act in the UK under the Conservation of Seals ACT of 1970.
The Gray Seal does very well in captivity, and can live up to 40 years there. They are only able to successfully live in the wild for up to 30 years. One of their biggest threats is the huge nets out there in the water for fishermen to make a living.