Harbor seal in exhibit
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 Endangered Status Graph - Least Concern Endangered Status Graph - Least Concern

More Information

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.

Did You Know?

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

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

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

Species Survival Plan logo

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®.

Learn More

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.

Learn More

Support Your Zoo

Two Chilean flamingos in exhibit

Animals Depend On People Too

When you ADOPT an animal, you support world-class animal care by helping to provide specially formulated diets, new habitat elements, and regular veterinary checkups.

Adopt an Animal

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.

Browse the Wish List

African penguin eating a fish

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.

Take Action