Ringed seal

Learn about ringed seals, including their life cycle, diet, distribution and population trends.

A ringed seal. Photo credit: Mike Hammill

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Life cycle

Ringed seals have a lifespan of 25 to 30 years. Adults average about 1.5 metres in length and weigh between 50 to 70 kg. They are the smallest species in the seal family.

Females can give birth to a single pup per year in March or April. Pups are born in a snow lair that protects them from the environment and predators. They are weaned after one month.

Diet

Ringed seals eat a wide variety of small prey including:

Distribution

Ringed seals live in Arctic waters near ice floes and pack ice. They create a breathing hole in the ice, which lets them use ice habitat in unique ways.

They inhabit oceans around the North Pole from approximately 35°N, including all seas of the Arctic Ocean. In the North Pacific, they inhabit the southern Bering Sea and range as far south as the Seas of Okhotsk and Japan.

Population trends

Little is known about the status of ringed seals in the northwest Atlantic. The North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission estimates that there are approximately 1.2 million ringed seals.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada assessed ringed seals as ‘Not at Risk’ in April 1989.