Foto: Henrik Johnsson

Harbour seal

The Harbour seal is one of three seal species in Sweden, it is widespread along the entire west coast. Slottsskogen has had seals since 1902.

The Harbor seal occurs in oceans in the northern hemisphere, but they prefer ice-free waters. In Sweden, Harbour seal is most common at the West Coast, but it also occurs in the southern part of the east coast. After a decrease in the 19th century the seal population has recovered well. 

Elegant in the water but clumsy on land

Seals are elegant in the water, but clumsy on land. They normally swim with a speed of 5-8 km/h, but they can swim much faster. When they are in a hurry, they can keep 40 km /h.

In the cold water

The seal's body temperature is about 37°C, just like humans. The thick fat layer under the skin helps the seals to keep warm and prevent them from freezing when they are in the cold water.

Down towards the deep!

Harbour seals can dive to more than 100 m deep and stay under water for 20 minutes. To manage that one adaptation to cope with this is that the blood can bind extra oxygen.

Mating and the first weeks

At 3-4 years of age seals are sexually mature. During the mating season a male can mate with several females. In June and July the female gives birth to a cub in the outer archipelago. All baby seals have a dense fur, but the harbor seal shed before birth and hence the young harbor seal can swim after a few hours.

The hunt for food

Seals are carnivorous and live principally on fish. They eat 3-4 kg fish per day, but they also eats clams, shrimp and other crustaceans. The seals do not chew their prey but swallows it whole. One can often see seals swimming on back with his eyes towards the bottom. They swim in this way to better detect prey on the seabed.