Seal species encountered in the UK

The only species native to the British Isles are the Grey Seal (Halichocerus grypus) and the Common Seal (Phoca vitulina), which despite its name is not as common as the Grey Seal. Common seals have V-shaped nostrils and "cat" muzzles whilst Greys have parallel nostrils and "dog" muzzles, with adult males having a distinctly Roman nose; both are spotted in varying shades of grey.

There are approximately 124,000 Grey Seals in the British Isles, which is half the world population, and three quarters of those live off the Scottish coast; Common Seals are known as Harbour Seals in other parts of the world, with the British population around 36,320.

common seal pup

Common seal pup

grey seal pup

Grey seal pup

All the other seal species are infrequent visitors from the Arctic to British waters : Harp Seals are also spotted but have a distinctive harp or horseshoe shaped patch down the flanks and across their backs; male Hooded Seals have a prominent inflatable hood on the top of their skull and reach 3 metres (10 feet) in length, much larger than any other species likely to be encountered; Ringed Seals are the smallest of the five, reaching less then a metre and a half (5 feet) and having distinct spots with lighter rings round them. None breed here so only adults could be encountered.

harp seal

Harp Seal

hooded seal

Hooded seal

ringed seal

Ringed seal

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