Sunday, June 27, 2010

Gray seals off Monomoy

Gray Seals (Halichoerus grypus) feeding in the Atlantic
Click on the photo collage for close up views

This is my last post about my trip to Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge:
I went to Monomoy to see gray seals and I was not disappointed. Though our naturalist guide expected to find vast numbers of them hauled out and resting, we arrived during their lunch time when feeding was optimal for them. Instead, we watched them surf the waves and dive for eels and fish. I could not have been happier ― seeing them on the move and in their natural element was wonderful. They’re very curious and some of the juveniles briefly swam in close to shore to get a better view of us!

The gray seal has a wide variety of coloring. Males tend to have a dark brown-gray to black coat with a few light patches. Females are generally light gray-tan, lighter on the chest, with dark spots and patches. Adult males, and some older adult females to a lesser extent, have a characteristically long nose with wide nostrils, which is why this species is called "horsehead" in Canada, and why its Latin name translates to "hooked-nose pig of the sea." Gray seals have been known to dive to depths up to 300m for as long as 20 minutes. Females live up to 35 years of age, males up to 25 years. The maximum recorded ages are 46 years for a female, 29 years for a male.

Gray seals are found in the north Atlantic Ocean separated into three distinct populations: the western Atlantic population is found off the coast of Canada from north Labrador down to New England occasionally as far south as Virginia. The eastern Atlantic population is found around the coasts of the United Kingdom and Ireland, and on the coasts of the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Norway, and northwestern Russia as far as the White Sea. Smaller populations are also found on the French, Dutch, and German coasts, and wandering individuals have been found as far south as Portugal. The third known population of gray seals is located in the Baltic Sea.


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