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Harbor Seal

Scientific Name: Phoca vitulina


Referred to as common seals or “true” seals, harbor seals do not have external ears. Unlike sea lions, they crawl along land on their bellies due to short front flippers and the inability to rotate rear flippers underneath them. They have spotted coats that are a variety of colors from silver to blue grey to dark brown or black. They typically grow up to 6 feet long, weigh up to 300 pounds and can live 25-30 years.


Harbor seals are found across the Northern Hemisphere, living in both the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts of the United States. They stay near the shore of coastal areas around rocky islands, sandy beaches, estuaries and bays.

Status in the Wild

Harbor seals are protected in US waters by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. However, in other parts of the world they can be killed if found interfering with fishing industries. Since harbor seals visit the same areas, they can be threatened by human encroachment, entanglement in fishing nets and environmental pollution.