Harbor Seal Identification Tips

ID: spotted pelage; fore flippers small
Size: Males and Females range from 4-6 ft. and a maximum of 310 pounds.
Color: gray with white spots or white with gray spots
Ears: No external ear flaps; a true seal
Genitals: Internal testes, 1-2 sets of teats
Behavior: Seal pups are temporarily left on shore while their mother forages for food. If you see a seal pup alone on the beach, it is not abandoned! The best thing to do is stay 100 yards away from the animal, harbor seal mothers are shy and will not return if there are disturbances around the pup. A required 48 hour observation time is necessary to determine if the pup is being attended by the mother or if it has been abandoned.
Sleep: Haul out at night and during the day; they have the ability to sleep underwater and come up for air once every 30 minutes, they are unable to sleep at the surface of the water.
Locomotion: On land harbor seals are very awkward, they are unable to move their hind limbs forward to create a "walking" motion, and instead it is a “caterpillar” motion. Locomotion on land is accomplished by wriggling undulations using mainly the front flippers, the hindlimbs cannot be rotated forward and are dragged behind. This does not mean they are injured.

Look for tags or signs of human interactions:

  • seals are tagged on their rear flippers (blue=male; yellow=female; red=rehab animal)
  • entanglements? shot?

To report a dead, injured or stranded marine mammal, please call: 1-866-767-6114 
For law enforcement, harassments,  and other violations, please call:  1-800-853-1964