Unique animals with a history of endangerment, harp seals are wild ice lovers.
In A Massacre in Canada, Monday’s “Weekly Feature”, we discussed the annual Canadian seal hunt (which is taking place now), and the brutal slaughtering of hundreds of thousands of harp seals. An agile, odd-looking creature, most of us have only encountered seals in zoos and wildlife water enclosures. But, what makes seals special, especially the harp seal?
Given their name because of a harp-like pattern on an adult’s back (which can be seen after moulting – the shedding of their fur), harp seals are born weighing a little over 20 pounds with no blubber or fat, and must depend on their fluffy white fur, and the milk of their mothers, for warmth. Going through a 6 stage life process, harp seals learn to defend for themselves between 12-18 days old. They learn to swim the frigid, icy waters of the North Atlantic Ocean, and being carnivorous, they feed on cod, herring, shrimp, and many other fish and crustaceans they share the waters with.
Averaging a life span of 20-30 years in the wild, and weighing between 300-400 pounds, adult harp seals spend most of their life in the water, following the ice as it recedes north. Coming together to mate, give birth, feed, and migrate, these groups of harp seals is called a colony. While there has been no social system or hierarchy recorded of harp seals, scientists have recorded over 19 different calls made by harp seals to one another.
The biggest predators to harp seals in their natural environment include polar bears and whales. However, humans also pose a huge threat to these animals. Commercially hunted for their meat, oils, fur, and skin since the 1700’s, hundreds of thousands of harp seals are beaten, slaughtered, and skinned in Canada, Norway, and Russia. Luckily though, they are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, making it illegal to hunt or sell their parts in the United States.
Loving the icy cold that most of us despise, being able to hold their breath underwater for almost 15 minutes, and having acute underwater vision and hearing (even though they have no external ear flaps), harp seals are an intriguing, special species. Deserving more protection from human hunting, visit Harpseals.org to find out the many ways you can help these interesting creatures.
Harp Seal Quiz
It is now time for the “Creature Spotlight” quiz! Can you guess the correct answer?
Make sure to check back in tomorrow during “Veggie Food Guide” for the answer to today’s quiz!