Harbour Seal



    Phoca vitulina
    Native Species
    Least Concern


Seal and Eagle Habitat

About the Harbour Seal

Once considered by the Irish to be a human being under a spell, the Harbour Seal’s short, sleek body and flippers are purpose-built for life in the water. A unique pattern of fine, dark spots mean the species varies in colour from brownish-black to tan or grey, while their large eyes and nostrils help to make them one of the sea’s top predators. Males are both heavier and longer than females, and the seal has no ear flaps – a feature that makes them easy to distinguish from Sea Lions and Fur Seals.


The Harbour Seal is native to polar and temperate seas and oceans throughout the Northern Hemisphere.

Wild Notes

Despite living mainly in the sea, the Harbour Seal comes ashore to give birth and raise its pups. A newborn pup will nurse for four to six weeks and because its mother’s milk contains as much as 45% milk fat, it will double its weight by the time it’s fully weaned. Adult seals consumes a diet of fish, squid and a selection of crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp – all of which it catches with sharp, pointed teeth.

A layer of fat called blubber provides the animal with insulation in cold water.


With an estimated 6 million individuals in the wild, the species is not threatened as a whole. However, some local populations around Greenland and the Baltic Sea have been reduced or eliminated because of disease and conflict with mankind and it’s also threatened by marine pollution and entanglement.

Did You Know?

Seals can dive for eight minutes at a time, though dives of up to 30 minutes have been recorded. They don’t hold their breathe like human either – instead they breathe out and hold on to oxygen in their blood, muscle and other tissues. The species also has five fingers and five toes on their front and hind flippers.

The Fota Connection.

The Park has been home to Harbour Seals since the 1990s when an injured female pup by the name of Elvis arrived from Kerry. The Seal habitat is linked to Cork Harbour, which means the estuarine environment is a very natural one as well as being a source of abundant food. The exhibit is also home to the White-tailed Sea Eagle – and the redevelopment has worked well for both species while allowing visitors get a close up view of two magnificent native Irish animals.


Cafés, car parking, gift shop and more

Read more


Keep up with the latest from Fota

Read more


Fota Wildlife Park is a not for profit organisation and a registered conservation charity

Read more

Animal Blog

Read the latest news about your favourite animals

Read more

Breeding Programmes

Learn more about breeding programmes run cooperatively with other zoos and wildlife parks

Read more