Hooded seal

Hooded seal. Photo Credit: Mike Hammill

Photo Credit: Mike Hammill

Size: Adult males average 2.6 m in length and weigh between 300–460 kg. Females average 2.03 m in length and weigh between 145–300 kg.

Feeding habits: The Hooded seal’s diet varies regionally and includes: squid, Greenland halibut, redfish, Atlantic cod, Atlantic argentine, amphipods, euphausiids, and capelin.

Reproduction and life cycle: Hooded seals give birth on pack ice during mid to late March. Pups are born with a slate blue-grey coat (blueback) which they moult at about 16 months of age although they may retain the blueback colour for another year. Females nurse their pup an average of only four days, during which the pup doubles in size.

Lifespan: 30 years.

Distribution: The hooded seal is only found in the central and western North Atlantic range from Svalbard in the east to the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the west. There are two populations of hooded seals. The Greenland Sea population pups on the ice off east Greenland. The Northwest Atlantic population pups at the Front (off the coast of northern Newfoundland / southern Labrador), in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, and in the Davis Strait (between Greenland and northern Canada). After the breeding season, Northwest Atlantic hooded seals disperse to feed and migrate to the moulting areas off southeast Greenland. After moulting in July, they migrate along the Greenland coast to Baffin Bay and Davis Strait where they feed before returning to the breeding areas in late winter.

Population trends: Abundance of hooded seals is estimated from a population model that incorporates data on reproductive rates, removals and periodic pup productions. Historical trends in abundance of Northwest Atlantic hooded seals are poorly known, but it is believed that the population is at or above historical levels and is increasing. In Canada, the estimated total population in 2005 (last assessment) was 593,500. Greenland Sea hooded seals are estimated to have been reduced to less than 30 percent of their historical numbers with a current population size of approximately 83,000.

Conservation status in Canada: The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) designated hooded seals ‘Not at Risk’ in April 1986.