Arctic seals, more commonly known as harp seals, are carnivorous animals with average life-spans of approximately 20 years, though some live as long as 30 to 35 years. Harp seals can reach a hefty 400 pounds, and their communities are called colonies or rookeries. The main habitats of harp seals are the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans.
Harp seals prefer to spend most of their time in the water and can remain submerged for up to 15 minutes without needing to resurface for breathing. Due to the characteristic dark markings on their backs, harp seals are also sometimes called saddleback seals. Their diets include a wide variety of fish, such as Arctic cod, herring, sculpin, Greenland halibut and redfish, with other prey including krill and prawns.
Every year, harp seals of both sexes return instinctively to breeding grounds in Newfoundland, the White and Greenland seas to mate, and the competition between males for female partners is often violently combative. Harp seal pups are born on the ice, with mothers preferring to give birth in larger female groups. Although many pups are born during each breeding season, mothers can tell their individual offspring simply by scent. The plush white coats characteristic of these pups afford protection from the cold but are also inducements for hunters and poachers. Animal rights organizations campaign feverishly for the pups' protection, but their pelts remain a commercially significant target nonetheless.