Around half the global population of grey seals are found around the British coast.
Amazing Facts About the Grey Seal
- Grey seals are the biggest land breeding mammal in the United Kingdom.
- Around half the global population of grey seals are found around the British coasts.
- Grey seal pups weigh only around 14 kg at birth. However their mother’s high fat milk allows them to quickly bulk up and develop the blubber which is essential for survival in the cold sea water.
- Mother and pup grey seals have a strong bond from birth. Mothers recognise their pup by their call and scent. For the first few weeks of the pup’s life, the mother will feed them around 6 times a day, for up to 10 minutes at a time.
- Mother grey seals remain close to their infant during the first weeks of their life. They rarely feed for themselves during this period and lose up to a quarter of their own weight before the pup is ready to be weaned.
- Grey seals’ hands and feet are formed into webbed flippers. They use their strong rear flippers to propel themselves through the water, while using their tail to steer. They also have powerful shoulders which enable them to haul themselves onto steep and slippery rocks.
- Grey seals can dive to depths of around 70 metres when searching for food.
- Grey seals are able to remain underwater for up to 16 minutes, although they normally tend to resurface after periods of around 5-10 minutes. As a mammal species, the grey seal is unable to breathe underwater, however it is able to stay underwater for so long by slowing its heart rate to conserve oxygen. Grey seals also have high levels of haemoglobin (red blood pigment which carries oxygen around the body).
- Grey seals hunt alone out at sea. Their large eyes allow them to see well in dark murky waters; however their highly sensitive ears are most important for locating prey. Even blind seals can easily catch prey.
- Grey seals breed from September to December around the British coasts. Females give birth to a single pup on a shore alongside hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of other seals.
- The grey seal’s scientific name derives from the Greek for ‘hook-nosed sea pig’.
- Grey seals are shot in the UK by fish farmers and fishermen.
- Type: Mammal
- Diet: Carnivore
- Lifespan: 25-38 years
- Size: Males up to 2.7 m; females up to 1.7 m
- Weight: 150-250 kg, with males being larger than females
- Habitat: Cool waters and rocky shores
- Range: North-east Atlantic Ocean
- Scientific name: Halichoerus grypus