The hooded seal is a type of Arctic seal that belongs to the order Pinnipedes. Its close relatives are seals, walruses and sea lions. Hooded seals inhabit the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. Hooded seals live in Svalbard, the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Newfoundland. The main threat to the survival of hooded seals is hunting. People hunt them for their skin, fur and meat. They are not currently listed as endangered species.
Hooded Seal males become sexually mature at around 6 years of age while females mature anywhere from 3 to 6 years.
Males of hooded seals are larger than females. They can reach 9 to 10 feet in length and weigh of 900 pounds.
Breeding season of the hooded seal is during the spring. The Seals are generally only at their breeding grounds for 2 or 3 weeks during which time pregnant females deliver (after an 11 month pregnancy) and new mating occurs.
Females are usually 6 to 7 feet long, with 700 pounds of weight.
Hooded Seal pups measure about 1 metre long and 25 kg at birth.
Body of hooded seal is covered with thick fur that is usually grey or blue-gray in color. Fur is covered with irregular spots that can be light or dark in color.
Hooded Seals live up to 35 years.
The most prominent feature on the body of hooded seal is a hood that looks like a large red balloon when inflated.
Rough estimates place the Hooded Seal worldwide population at about 592,100 (as of 2006).
Hood is an enlargement of the nasal cavity. It can be seen only in males. Hood starts to develop at the age of 4 years, and it becomes fully developed at age of 12 years.
Hooded Seals have the shortest weaning period of any mammal.
Average hood is two times bigger than the football, with a volume of around 6.3 liters. When inflated, hood doubles the size of the seal’s head.
Hooded Seals get their name from their unique hooded nasal cavities.
Males inflate their hood when they are threatened or excited. Hood plays important role during mating season. Males with larger hoods have better chances to mate.
Hooded Seals are generally more territorial than other seal species and can become aggressive when in defense mode.
Hooded seals have large flippers, used for swimming. Flippers end with sharp claws.
Hooded Seal pups are referred to as “Blue-backs” due to their blue-black colouring which is shed for their adult colouring at around 14 months of age.
Hooded seal spends parts of its life on ice blocks that are floating in the ocean, and other part in the water, where it is searching for food.
The genera name Cystophora comes from a Greek word meaning “bladder-bearer”, referring of course to the Hooded Seal’s hood.
Hooded seal is carnivore (meat-eater). It usually eats fish such as redfish, herring, cod, and capelin. Besides fish, hooded seal hunts octopuses, shrimps, squids and mussels.
The males’ hood is also used underwater as a kind of noisemaker – when vibrated it sends out sounds warning other seals away from the territory.
Hooded seals have a light gray to blue-gray coloration with irregularly shaped light or dark blotches.
Hooded seal is solitary animal. It gathers with other hooded seals only during mating season.
Hooded seals feed on squid, starfish and mussels. They also eat several types of fish including Greenland halibut, redfish, Atlantic cod, Arctic Cod, capelin and herring.
Group of hooded seals is known as pod, harem, colony, flock, herd and rockery.
Hooded seals have the shortest lactation period of any mammal, with most pups nursing for only 4 days.
Pregnancy in hooded seals lasts 11 months and it ends with a single baby. Hooded seals have the shortest period of lactation (breast-feeding) of all mammals. Babies suckle only four to five days.
Hooded Seals differ from sea lions in a number of ways, including having shorter, stouter flippers, and no visible earflaps.
Although suckling lasts only couple of days, mother’s milk is rich in fat and babies can double their size immediately. After this period, young hooded seals can start eating like adult animals. Hooded seals reach sexual maturity at the age of five years.
As for other marine mammals, the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 protects hooded seals in U.S. waters.
Hooded seals have long lifespan. They can survive between 30 and 35 years in the wild. Captive hooded seals are prone to tuberculosis and cranial infections.
In Canada, hooded seals are federally managed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.