Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Harbor Seals

The waters off of the Olympic Peninsula are known for large numbers of marine mammals. There are resident packs of Killer Whales (Orca) along with some transient groups. Several types of whales can be seen in the area, as well as Sea and River Otters. But by far the most common marine mammal is the Harbor Seal.

Harbor Seals are well-named because they prefer coastal waters and can be found near beaches, sand spits, and in harbors. We've seen a few offshore here at the refuge, but nearby Port Angeles is the place to find them. There is a paper mill in the area with large rafts of logs anchored in a harbor. The seals love to haul out onto these logs and relax.

Harbor Seals vary in color, but the most common patterns are white with black spots, and black (dark gray) with light spots. Harbor Seals are known for adopting an odd "banana posture" when on land. They raise their heads and tails into the air and lay in that position. It looks really awkward but they don't seem to mind!

In Port Angeles we've seen dozens of seals laying on the log raft. They are about the same size and color as the logs, so it takes a while to realize how many are out there. In the picture below there are at least eight seals. Can you find them (click on the picture for a better look)?

This guy was our favorite. He was close and very expressive.

At one point he had a little itch.

Fun Fact: Sea Lions have external ear flaps and can swivel their hind flippers forward to allow them to walk on land. True Seals (like Harbor Seals) have no ear flaps and cannot turn their hind flippers, so they just sort of flop around on land. But they are excellent swimmers, diving to depths of 1500 feet and staying submerged for up to 20 minutes!

In the closeup above you can see the ear holes (no flaps!) on two different seals.

We look forward to seeing many more marine mammals in the coming months, but for now are enjoying all of these Harbor Seals.



  1. Must have strong abs for that banana position! Love seals and sea lions but never can tell or remember the difference!

  2. They look like stuffed sausages! Seals are a lot less vocal than sea lions too.

  3. Loved catching up on your blog. We have been so busy here at Lower Rio Grande Valley and haven't had a chance to keep up. I have been enjoying looking at your pictures and hearing about the refuge. We visited that area last year and had an amazing summer on the Olympic Peninsula. Gorgeous area and so much to do. Be sure to get over to Victoria on Vancouver Island. Looking forward to seeing your adventure this summer. We are starting our trek to Idaho on April 1st.

    1. We've got Victoria and Vancouver on our list of places to visit. Enjoy your time at Farragut - I can't wait to hear what you think of your summer.

  4. Great pictures and another informative post. Thanks you two.

    1. We had a great time watching the seals!