Hooded Seal

Hooded Seal



COMMON NAME: hooded seal
KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Chordata
CLASS: Mammalia
ORDER: Pinnipedia
FAMILY: Phocidae
GENUS SPECIES: Cystophora cristata


DESCRIPTION: Hooded seals have a light gray to blue-gray coloration with irregularly shaped light or dark blotches.
MALE Males exhibit a characteristic enlarged nasal cavity (hood) which is inflated for display during courtship and as an aggressive posture for defense.
MALE 2.74-3.04 m (9-10 ft.)
FEMALE 1.83-2.14 m (6-7 ft.)
MALE 408 kg (900 lbs.)
FEMALE 317 kg (700 lbs.)
DIET: Various fishes, squid and octopi
GESTATION: 11.5 months with a delayed implantation of up to 3.7 months
ESTRAL PERIOD Typically at the end of lactation
NURSING DURATION Pups are born with a well-developed blubber layer and only nurse for 4 days on average
MALE 4-6 years
FEMALE 2-9 years
LIFE SPAN: Can live 30-35 years
RANGE: Throughout the Northwestern Atlantic and in the Greenland Sea. Small numbers of individuals are increasingly seen along the Atlantic coast from Maine to Florida. Individuals (usually juveniles) have been found as far south as the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
HABITAT: Gather in large numbers on ice floes to breed. Feed in deep, pelagic waters.
STATUS: IUCN Lower Risk/least concern
CITES Not listed
USFWS Not listed


1. Hooded seals belong to the scientific order Pinnipedia, which includes seals, sea lions, and walruses.
2. Seals differ from sea lions in a number of ways, including having shorter, stouter flippers, and no visible earflaps.
3. Hooded seals are named for the bi-lobed hood-an enlargement of the nasal cavity on the heads of males. The male can inflate the hood and move air back and forth between the two lobes. In addition, the male can also inflate a bright, red, membranous "balloon" that usually originates from the left nostril. The inflated hood and balloon are often used in visual displays for courtship, for dominance, and as a threat.
4. View tracking data associated with the hooded seal released by SeaWorld on July 9, 1997 - WHALENET.


As for other marine mammals, the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 protects hooded seals in U.S. waters.

Polar bears and occasionally killer whales are predators of hooded seals.

Hooded seals have been hunted throughout their range for their oil, meat and skins- especially the thick pelts of newborn seals (called bluebacks). Because of bans in the U.S. and Europe, the market for pelts is currently poor, which reduces hunting pressure on pups.

In Canada, hooded seals are federally managed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). This protection provides annual hunting quotas for hooded seal populations, prohibits the hunting of pups (bluebacks), and prohibits the hunting of adults when they are on the breeding grounds.


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Riedman, M. The Pinnipeds: Seals, Sea Lions and Walruses. Berkeley and Los Angeles. University of California Press. 1990.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada