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Bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus)

The fema­les of this lar­ge seal with its dis­tinc­ti­ve mousta­che can weigh 400 kilo­grams. Most­ly you see them lying on ice or swim­ming in the water and with a litt­le luck you can get pret­ty clo­se to the Bear­ded seals on Sval­bard.

Bearded seal

A lar­ge sau­sa­ge with a small head is usual­ly a Bear­ded seal (Here: Fjor­ten­de Juli­buk­ta).

Descrip­ti­on: The Bear­ded seal is up to 2.5 m in length and up to 300 kg in weight, in some cases (fema­les in spring) even up to 400 kg. Second lar­gest seal spe­ci­es in the arc­tic, only the wal­rus is lar­ger. The fema­le Bear­ded seal is slight­ly lar­ger than its male coun­ter­part, but the sexes look very much the same for most but trai­ned obser­vers. As a spe­ci­es, they are easy to iden­ti­fy by shape and pro­por­ti­ons: a lar­ge, squa­re-shaped sau­sa­ge with a small head on ice, that is usual­ly a Bear­ded seal. Stron mousta­che. You will usual­ly see indi­vi­du­al Bear­ded seals on ice floes or swim­ming in the water, occa­sio­nal­ly two or three, but not in lar­ger num­bers and hard­ly ever on land.

Dis­tri­bu­ti­on / Migra­ti­on: Bear­ded seals can be found in many parts of the arc­tic. They pre­fer not too deep coas­tal waters with some drift ice, often fjords with cal­ving gla­cier fronts, and they stay year-round in Sval­bard waters.

Bio­lo­gy: Moul­ting is spread over most of the year, but is stron­gest in June, after mating. Bear­ded seals will eat almost anything that lives on the bot­tom, such as mus­sels, crabs, other crustace­ans, fish and anything else that moves on the ground and in the water. The whis­kers are organs with a very sen­si­ti­ve sen­se of touch, thus hel­ping to find prey at depths of up to 200 metres. Many Bear­ded seals end their lives as a Polar bear’s meal, but Orcas, Green­land sharks and Wal­rus with slight­ly abnor­mal tas­te can also be dan­ge­rous pre­d­a­tors.

Fema­les give birth on ice floes in ear­ly May, and the sin­gle pup is able to swim after only a few hours. To begin with, they live on appro­xi­mate­ly eight litres of milk each day with a fat con­tent of about 50 per­cent. After about three weeks, they can dive and find their own food. Bear­ded seals have a life expec­tancy of 20-25 years.

Mis­cel­la­ne­ous: With some luck and a boat you can often approach Bear­ded seals qui­te clo­se­ly. They are hun­ted out­side the pro­tec­ted are­as and out­side the bree­ding sea­son. As in Green­land, seal meat is most­ly used to feed dogs. Hun­ting is limi­ted in popu­la­ri­ty, as you can­not refu­el snow mobi­les with seal meat.

Bearded Seal

An extre­me­ly rare sight: Bear­ded seal ashore, seen in Mus­ham­na on 8.8.2018

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last modification: 2018-09-04 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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