Commonly Encountered Pinnipeds

COSEWIC-CSofWSThere are several species of pinnipeds that occur in our waters. Profiles of these species can be found below. Canadian species conservation status as assessed either by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and/ or listed under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) is indicated for each species.


DescriptionGrey Seal

Maximum Size: Male: 8’6″ (2.6 m); Female: 6’7″ (2 m)
Colour: Males are dark in colour with light splotches, with females and juveniles being light in colour with dark splotches.
Key Features:
1) Large-bodied and robust with a rotund torso tapering off towards the legs
2) Male’s snout long and broad with wide nostrils, female’s tend to have narrow and short noses; no external ear flaps
3) 9 – 10 pairs of teeth in the upper jaw and 8 pairs in the lower jaw
4) Flippers are short and rather thick. The foreflippers are blunt at the end, with digits all roughly the same length and with long slender claws

Harp Seal

Maximum Size: Male: 6’3″ (1.9 m); Female: 5’11″ (1.8 m)
Colour: Light gray colouration with a black face and ‘harp-shaped’ black patch on the back.
Key Features:
1) Medium-sized with a robust body
2) Relatively small head with a broad, flat, and narrow snout; no external ear flaps
3) 8 pairs of teeth in both jaws
4) The flippers are short and narrow; the foreflippers have thick strong claws, and the hindflippers have longer inner and outer digits and small narrow claws.

DescriptionHarbour Seal

Maximum Size: Male: 6’3″ (1.9 m); Female: 5’7″ (1.7 m)
Colour: Colour varies with location, but ranges from light tan or silver with scattered dark spots or black with light, incomplete rings
Key Features:
1) Medium-sized with a short, spindle-shaped body
2) Robust head with a broad and long snout; no external ear flaps
3) 9 pairs of teeth in the upper jaw and 8 pairs in the lower
4) Relatively short flippers with sturdy claws on the foreflippers

 


DescriptionHooded Seal

Maximum Size: Male: 10′ (3 m); Female: 7’10″ (2.4 m)
Colour: Silver-gray colour with irregular dark blotches over most of the body. Face and dorsal surface of foreflippers are darker. Pups born with a thick pelage that is bluish gray dorsally, yellowish or creamy white ventrally, and dark on the face and foreflippers.
Key Features:
1) Large with a robust body
2) Broad, robust head with a short, narrow snout. Males have an extrudable, red ‘bladder’ that inflates from the nostril to make the head appear larger
3) 8 pairs of teeth in the upper jaw and 7 pairs in the lower jaw
4) Short and narrow flippers