Harp seals live off a diet of capelin, polar cod, herring, halibut, crabs and shrimp. Male harp seals mature by age eight, while females are mature by age six. Harp seals require ice for whelping, and their survival is threatened by climate change.
Harp seals are named after distinct markings on their coats. Adult harp seals weigh between 220 to 320 pounds and vary in length between 4.6 and 6.6 feet. The average lifespan of a harp seal is 35 years. They are true earless seals, meaning they do not have visible ears on the sides of their heads. Harp seals are ice seals and use claws on their front flippers to move on ice sheets in the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans. Harp seals, along with hooded seals, are commercially hunted off the coast of Canada yearly.
Three distinct breeding populations of harp seals exist: off the coast of Norway, in the North Atlantic off the coast of Canada, and in the White Sea. Harp seals off the coast of Canada migrate south to Newfoundland and Labrador in the fall. They feed and birth during the months of December through February and eventually return to the arctic when the ice begins to melt in the spring.