What kinds of seals can you find in Massachusetts?
Seals are sometimes called “ocean puppies,” and it’s easy to see why! Their playful, energetic displays (not to mention their barking) make them seem like man’s best friend, but with flippers. 🙂
Below, you will find pictures and descriptions of the types of seals in Massachusetts. I’ve also included RANGE MAPS and fun facts about each species.
Although there are tons of interesting things about pinnipeds, I kept each description brief so I could cover all the species. So, you may want to consider purchasing the book below if you want more information or need help with additional identification.
Here are 2 Types of Seals Found in Massachusetts!
#1. Harbor Seal
- Phoca vitulina
- Adults are 5-6 feet (1.5-1.8 meters) long and weigh 180-285 lbs (81-130 kilograms).
- They are mostly white, with mottled gray-black markings on their backs.
Harbor Seals spend most of their time hunting fish, shellfish, and crustaceans at sea. However, they come ashore to rest on beaches, reefs, and glacial ice drifts.
Unlike some other seal species, Harbor Seals spend time in groups while on land, resting in packs to avoid predators. These marine mammals embody the “cuteness” of seals, with their cat-like noses and wide, deep eyes.
Unfortunately, this often leads humans to feed or disturb them for a chance to get up close. Feeding Harbor Seals or any other wild marine mammal is detrimental because it can cause issues with aggression, territory disputes, and displacement.
If you find a group of Harbor Seals in Massachusetts, observe from a distance and leave them be.
#2. Gray Seal
- Halichoerus grypus
- Adults are 7.5-10 feet (2.3-3 meters) long and weigh 550-880 lbs (249-400 kilograms).
- Their coats are light gray with black mottling and some lighter patches.
Look for Gray Seals on ice floes or sandy beaches in the North Atlantic. They gather in large groups during the breeding season.
Interestingly, they don’t eat while breeding and raising their young! Instead, they live off of fat stores accumulated during the non-breeding season. Gray Seal pups vocalize almost constantly to keep in contact with their mothers, and observers have said they sound similar to human babies.
Outside the breeding season, they spend most of their time looking for food. Their superb vision and hearing make them exceptional hunters. Although their diet mostly consists of fish and crustaceans, they occasionally catch and eat seabirds!
Do you want to learn more about other MAMMALS in Massachusetts? Check out these other field guides!
Which seals have you seen in Massachusetts?
Let us know in the comments!