Grey seal

Species profile

Name: the grey seal¬†(Halichoerus grypus) is a large¬†seal in the Phocidae family – commonly known as the ‘true’ or ‘earless’ seals. They are also known as gray, Atlantic, and horsehead seals.

Appearance: female grey seals are a silver grey or brown colour with dark patches. Males are generally darker, with lighter patches and scarring around their necks. They are often seen alongside harbour seals and can be distinguished by their long snouts and wide set nostrils.

Size: they are large seals, reaching up to 2.7 metres long and weighing up to 400 kg.

Diet: grey seals feed on a variety of species including sand eels, cod, herring, wrasse, octopus, and lobsters. They usually need to eat around 5 kg of food each day although they fast during the breeding season.

Did you know: recent studies in Scotland, the Netherlands, and Germany have shown that grey seals can sometimes attack and kill large animals such as harbour seals and porpoises. In 2014, a male grey seal in the North Sea was filmed killing and eating 11 grey seal pups over the course of a week. Similar wounds on the carcasses of pups found elsewhere suggest that cannibalism and infanticide may not be uncommon in grey seals. This behaviour may be related to improving reproductive success by reducing competition for prey.

Location: grey seals are found on both shores of the North Atlantic Ocean. In the UK and Ireland they breed in colonies along the coast. In the Western North Atlantic, they are found in the coastal waters from Canada to Nantucket in the US. An isolated population also exists in the Baltic Sea.

Where to see Grey seals

According to reports submitted to WildSide, you can see grey seals in the following places:

Place Chance to see User rating No. reports
Moray Firth
Isle of Mull
very good

Photo credit: A_Different_Perspective, under a Creative Commons license from Pixabay

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