Bearded Seal

Erignathus barbatus

Other common names: Square-flippered seal; the Inuit name is ugjuk or oogrook

Distinctive features: Thick bristles or “beard” on its muzzle. It also has square-ish front flippers; adults have a greyish-brown pelt, darker on the back.

Size: 2.1– 2.7 m in length; 200–400 kg weight; cows are generally larger than bulls.

Longevity: 25–30 years

Diet: Using their whiskers as feelers, bearded seals feed on the ocean floor, targeting species such as crabs, clams, squid, and benthic fish.

Population: Unknown (IUCN states “no evidence of a current decline”).

IUCN Status: Least concern; population trend: unknown.


Bearded seals have a circumpolar Arctic and sub-Arctic distribution. In Canada they are found throughout Hudson Bay and eastward, along the coast of Labrador to northern Newfoundland. Vagrants have been reported in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and elsewhere.

Life Cycle

Pups are born on drifting ice floes, usually in shallow water, in May (in the Canadian Arctic; earlier elsewhere in their range). Pups first swim just hours after birth; by the time they are weaned, at about 24 days, they are spending half of their time in the water. The pups, relatively large when born, grow at an average rate of 3.3 kg per day in those first three to four weeks.

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