Bearded seal

Learn about bearded seals, including their life cycle, diet, distribution and population trends.

A bearded seal. Photo credit: Mike Hammill.

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Life cycle

Bearded seals have a lifespan of about 25 years. Adults can reach about 2.1 to 2.7 metres in length and weigh between 200 to 430 kg.

In the Canadian Arctic, seal pups are born in May. They’re born on small drifting ice floes in shallow waters which they enter hours after birth, quickly becoming proficient divers. Pups nurse for 18 to 24 days, growing at about 3.3 kg per day.

Diet

Bearded seals feed on a variety of small prey found along the ocean floor, including:

Their whiskers serve as feelers in the soft bottom sediments, helping them to find prey.

Distribution

Bearded seals are found in the Northern Hemisphere with a circumpolar distribution that does not extend farther north than 80°N. In Canada, bearded seals are found throughout the Arctic and along the Labrador coast south to northern Newfoundland.

Population trends

The population of bearded seals is unknown. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada considered the species in April 2007 and placed them in the ‘Data Deficient’ category.