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Harp Seal

(Pagophilus groenlandicus)

Short Description

The Harp Seal or Saddleback Seal as it is also often referred,  is a species of earless seal native to the northernmost Atlantic Ocean and Arctic Ocean. Its scientific name (Pagophilus groenlandicus) means "ice-lover from Greenland".

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Long Description

Adult Harp seals grow up to be 1.7 to 2.0 m (5 to 6 feet) long and weigh anywhere from 140 to 190 kg (300 to 400 pounds).

They typically have a black face with silvery-gray to whitish body. It has black harp or wishbone shaped markings on the back. The pups have a yellow-white coat at birth, but after a 3 days the coat turns white and stays white for about 12 days.

At about 5 years old the female pups the first time and thereafter annually bears a single pup, usually in late February.

Social Groups and Activity:
These are extremely social animals and they can be very noisy as well. They form large colonies and spend a lot of time in the colony, often the colony getting too big, whereupon it will split off. Many individuals can live up to 30 years old in the wild.


The Harp Seal population is found in three separate populations or 'herds'., - the largest Western North Atlantic herd, located off eastern Canada. A second herd breeds on the "West Ice" off eastern Greenland, and a third herd breeds on the "East Ice" in the White Sea, which is off the coast of Russia. Breeding occurs between mid-February and April, and varies somewhat for each stock.

Distribution Map

Harp Seal  Distribution Map


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