Grey Seal – (Halichoerus grypus)
The Grey seal, or gray seal in American English, is often found, in coastal waters of the northern hemisphere. It is a true seal, as supposed to an eared one, and known for its friendly, inquisitive nature towards humans people. Whilst direct interaction with wild animals should never be encouraged there are many incidences of these amazing creatures coming and playing with scuba divers.
As their name suggests they are mostly grey, with fewer spots than harbour seals, which are often seen in the same waters. They are also larger, with the largest males, known as ‘bulls’ reaching around 3metres, and weighing almost 400kg. The easiest way to distinguish the species is the side profile of the head, often the only part of the body to be seen out of the water. Grey seals have a longer, straighter nose, more dog like, and it’s nostrils set further apart. They live between 25 and 35 years, with the females starting to breed from as young as 4, and living on average ten years longer than males.
Grey seals mostly they hunt fish, but will also eat squid, mollusks, and crabs as well as octopuses, and occasionally seabirds, and will often hunt as a group for maximum efficiency. There have also been documented cases of cannibalism, and the preying of grey seals on common seals and harbour porposies. During breeding season grey seals will fast, and this includes the three weeks when the females are nursing their pups.
Females will bear a single pup after a eleven-month gestation, which they care for alone. These pups are extremely vocal and often sound like human babies crying, this is how the mothers will find their young within the colonies.
Threats to harbour seals include disease, hunting, entanglement, pollution, and fishing as by catch, but from nature they are also preyed on by killer whales.