Seals

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Harbor seas are pretty much ubiquitous along the Northwest coast, and actually along much of the saltwater coasts of theSeals 1 northern hemisphere. Four to six feet long, grey or brown with spots, they are happy to eat fish, particularly salmon in the northwest, but also flounder, crabs, shrimp, even clams, basically whatever they can find. Like sea lions, they are protected, again, much to the irritation of Northwest commercial salmon fishermen.

To chase seals away from nets, commercial fishermen have for years used what are called seal bombs, basically small – cherry bomb sized – explosives that sometimes are actually shot from a pistol to get better range.

2 sealsFur seals (actually a generic name for nine species of seals) are actually closer to sea lions than seals. The Northern Fur Seal has a huge rookery in the Pribilof Islands (They used to be called the Northern Fur Seal Islands) in the Bering Sea in Western Alaska, and until it was outlawed in 1966, were hunted commercially for their furs. Today you still see sealskin jackets or pants around, but they may only be made by natives who are allowed to still hunt seals.

Harbor seals like to calve their young in protected areas away from humans and predators. In the glacial fjords along the Alaska coast, they find that flat icebergs are a safe place to have their young. For example, the icebergs of Johns Hopkins Inlet in Glacier Bay are very popular with seals seeking quiet and protection. So many seals have their young on the ice there, that during the summer calving season, the Inlet is closed to cruise ships.

Of course, there are predators for whom the ice isn’t a deterrence. Once on a flightseeing trip over the ice in Le Conte Bay near Petersburg, the pilot spotted a mother seal and two little pups on a flat berg, and circled closer for a look. As the passengers were oohing and ahhing over the sweet scene below them, a big orca or killer whale suddenly jumped/slid onto the berg, sliding across, leaving only bloody seal pup leftovers behind him, much to the horror of the folks in the plane.

“Now, that’s not something you see every day,” said the surprised pilot!

Dawes seals