Did you know? Last Thursday (March 22nd) was International Seal Day! As a belated celebration, here are some fun facts about the seals that call the Pacific Northwest home.
[ONE] There are several types of seals and sea lions that call the coasts of and the waters off the Pacific Northwest home: the harbor seal, the elephant seal, the stellar sea lion, the Northern fur seal, and the California sea lion are just some!
[TWO] The Northern Fur Seal (Callorhinus ursinus) were first called “sea bears” by Europeans and they are known for their thick fur, which has 300,000 hairs per square inch!
[THREE] Harbor seals spend about half their time in the water and the other half on land. They’re even able to sleep in water for about half an hour and dive to depths up to 650 feet! While they’re able to dive that deep and stay submerged for over 20 minutes, harbor seals tend to dive shallower depths for their food, which usually consists of fish, octopus, and squid.
[FOUR] There seem to be a whole lot of similarities between seals and sea lions but there are actually quite a few differences! True seals, for example, are ‘earless’ in the sense that they lack a visible and external ear flap. Sea lions have that external ear flap. Seals also have front flippers that are fur covered with long claws, while the front flippers of sea lions are skin covered with short claws. To learn more about the differences between seals and sea lions, the National Park Service has a great article about this!
[FIVE] In the summer of 2016, a harbor seal pip had to unfortunately be euthanized after being carried off by a woman who had thought it was abandoned. If you do see a seal pup and are worried about it, the best way to help it is by leaving it alone. While that may seem inhumane, giving it space allows for adult seals to come back for the pup. Intervening and taking the pup away without the proper training, knowledge, and resources stresses out the animal and can cause the adult seals to then abandon the pup if you bring it back.
If you are truly worried about the seal, the next best coarse of action is to leave it alone and call a nearby wildlife center. Your best bet is to contact the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network:
- To report dead, injured, or stranded marine mammals: 1-866-767-6114
- Entangled marine mammals: 1-877-767-9425
- There is also a pdf map of local Puget Sound contacts that belong to the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network.