Seals of Long Island Sound

Dec 20th, 2011 | By | Category: Long Island Sound, Water
Grey seal can be found in the Sound most times of the year.

Grey seal can be found in the Sound most times of the year.

Grey seal can be found in the Sound most times of the year.The regional seals that make the Sound their home from September through June—sometimes never leaving at all—are harbor (Phoca vitulina) and gray seals (Halichoerus grypus). Harbor seals have spotted coats with fur that varies in color from white to gray to browns. The patterns of spots or rings can be darker or lighter than the background fur. They have large eyes, slightly protruding snouts and V-shaped nostrils. Their heads are often said to resemble that of a short-muzzled dog. Gray seals can be recognized by their horselike heads.  Male gray seals are darker in color, with light spots on their coat, while females are lighter in color, with dark spots.

 

Hooded seals visit the Sound during the winter months.

Hooded seals visit the Sound during the winter months.

Hooded seals visit the Sound during the winter months. Since the mid 1990s, two species of ice seals—harp (Phoca groenlandica) and hooded seals (Cystophora cristata)—have been visiting the Sound from mid-January to early May. These species are called “ice seals” because they are from Canada and areas near Greenland, where they spend most of their lives on ice flows. Harp seals are the most abundant pinniped in the Northern Hemisphere, and they are found in very cold, arctic waters.  Adult harp seals can be identified by the dark, harp-shaped mark on their back, after which they are named.  Newborns are known best for their bright white coat, which is replaced by a more silverish coat after they are weaned. Hooded seals are another arctic species which can be spotted around Long Island in the wintertime.  Adult male hooded seals are known for their extrudable nasal sac, which they inflate to attract females or to threaten other males.

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