Harbor seal in exhibit

Harbor Seal

Scientific Name

Phoca vitulina






North Atlantic and north Pacific Oceans


Islands, beaches, and sandbars

Estimated Wild Population

Less than 640,000
Harbor seal in exhibit
IUCN Conservation Status: Lower Risk - Least Concern IUCN Conservation Status: Lower Risk - Least Concern

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Physical Description

Harbor seals can reach up to six feet in length, with males usually slightly larger than females. Specially adapted flippers help these aquatic mammals move quickly through the water while a thick coat of waterproof fur helps them stay warm. Harbor seals range from light gray to dark brown in color, and their fur is accented with colored spots and rings. They primarily feed on fish, mollusks, squid, and crustaceans. After breeding, females give birth to a pup on land. Newborns can swim and dive within hours.

Interesting Fact 1

Every year, harbor seals return to the same breeding ground, where males compete for females.

Interesting Fact 2

Although hunting harbor seals is illegal in the United States, they are hunted by humans—and great white sharks—across much of their range.

Interesting Fact 3

Adults can remain underwater for up to 30 minutes, allowing them to chase a variety of prey.

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Species Survival Plan®

We cooperate with other members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to manage the zoo population of this species through a Species Survival Plan®.

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Animal Care staff working with seal

Commitment to Care

Lincoln Park Zoo prioritizes individual well-being over everything else. Guided by scientific research, staff and volunteers work to provide the best welfare outcomes for each individual in the zoo’s care.

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Two Chilean flamingos in exhibit

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Asian small-clawed otter in exhibit

Wish List

The Wish List is full of one-of-a-kind items for the zoo’s animals, including nutritious snacks and enrichment items to keep them active and healthy. 

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Take Action With Us

Wildlife face many daunting challenges—some global, like planet-wide climate change, and some that affect individuals, like an animal ingesting plastic—but now is not the time to despair. None of these problems are too big for us to come together and solve.

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