How is Harp seal conservation status?

The Harp seal is considered Least Endangered and is commercially hunted for fur in Canada, Norway, Russia and Greenland

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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How is Harp seal conservation status?

The Harp seal lives in the Arctic seas, where it stays during the summer, spending little time on land. Between February and March it heads for the coasts of southern Greenland, northern Scandinavia and northern Asia, where the births take place.

Outside the breeding season, it can travel 4,000 km in open water. Thus it can appear in places where it does not usually live, in Great Britain, for example, 31 saddled seals have been found from 1800 to 1988. The Harp seal is a gregarious species and lives in large groups.

Between February and March it heads to one of the three breeding areas mentioned above. During this period, females fight for a piece of territory where the birth will take place, while males fight for the right to mate. Courtship may begin on ice, but mating usually occurs in water.

He can hold his breath for up to half an hour. The maximum life span is about 30 years.

How is Harp seal conservation status?

The Harp seal is considered Least Endangered and is commercially hunted for fur in Canada, Norway, Russia and Greenland.

In Canada, hunting is permitted from November 15 to May 15 according to government-set quotas, which dictate how many animals can be killed. Puppy hunting has been banned since 1987, when whitecoat fur was outlawed, but pups can be killed after their first molt.

A subsistence hunt is permitted for the Inuit, who kill seals for food and to a lesser extent, for commercial purposes. This phocid measures up to 1.8-2 meters, weighing 140-190 kg. The male is larger than the female. It has a brownish-grey livery with a dark gray or black head.

On the back, adults have a large dark harp-shaped patch. Smaller spots are present on the neck and sides. Puppies are yellow-white at birth, then turn white and remain so for 12 days. In this phase, they are called whitecoat in English, to underline the white coat.

Between the thirteenth day and the month of age, the white hair falls out in tufts showing the underlying fur, similar to that of the adults, dark stained but without the harp design, which appears after about 4 years. The puppies, one per birth, are born on slabs of ice and are nursed for twelve days.

The seal's milk contains up to 48% fat and the pup gains about two kilos a day, while the mother, who does not eat during lactation, can lose three kilos a day. The cub is abandoned by its mother at the end of twelve days and learns to swim independently after 7-8 weeks, during which she moults and survives on the fat accumulated during breastfeeding.