Long-distance movements of harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) from a seasonally ice-covered area, the St. Lawrence River estuary, Canada

Lesage, Véronique; Hammill, Mike O.; Kovacs, Kit M.
July 2004
Canadian Journal of Zoology;Jul2004, Vol. 82 Issue 7, p1070
Academic Journal
Previous studies of harbour seal (Phoca vitulina L., 1758) movements indicate that this species is relatively sedentary throughout the year. However, few investigations have examined their movements and seasonal distribution patterns in ice-covered areas. This study used spatial analysis of ice data and movement data from harbour seals collected via satellite (n = 7) and VHF radiotelemetry (n = 15) to explore this species' spatial use patterns in a seasonally ice-covered region, the St. Lawrence River estuary, Canada. When solid ice formed within the bays of the estuary, four of the seven satellite-tagged animals (all adult males) left their summer haul-out areas, migrating 266 ± 202 km (range 65–520 km) to over-wintering sites. The seals exhibited preference for areas of light to intermediate ice conditions during the winter months; at least six of the seven seals occupied areas with lighter ice conditions than those that prevailed generally in the study area. Evidence of high abundance of potential prey for harbour seals in the estuary during winter suggests that reduced availability of adequate food resources is not the primary factor which influences the movement and distribution patterns of harbour seals. Movement patterns observed during the ice-free period concur with previously reported harbour seal behaviour; the seals remained near the coast (<6.1–11.0 km from shore) in shallow water areas (<50 m deep in 100% VHF and 90% SLTDRs (satellite-linked time-depth recorders)) and travelled only short distances (15–45 km) from capture sites. None of the VHF- or satellite-tagged seals crossed the 350 m deep Laurentian channel, which suggests that this deep body of water might represent a physical barrier to this coastal population.


Related Articles

  • Why do seals have cones? Behavioural evidence for colour-blindness in harbour seals. Scholtyssek, Christine; Kelber, Almut; Dehnhardt, Guido // Animal Cognition;Mar2015, Vol. 18 Issue 2, p551 

    All seals and cetaceans have lost at least one of two ancestral cone classes and should therefore be colour-blind. Nevertheless, earlier studies showed that these marine mammals can discriminate colours and a colour vision mechanism has been proposed which contrasts signals from cones and rods....

  • USE OF HAUL-OUT SITES BY HARBOR SEALS (PHOCA VITLILINA) IN BELLINGHAM: IMPLICATIONS FOR FUTURE DEVELOPMENT. Farrer, Jessica; Acevedo-Gutiérrez, Alejandro // Northwestern Naturalist;Spring2010, Vol. 91 Issue 1, p74 

    The article presents a study which investigates the implications of haul-out sites by harbor seals or phoca vitulina in Bellingham, Washington. The researchers of the study observed the behavior and haul-outs of harbor seals from January 2007 to December 2007 by gathering baseline data through...

  • quick quiz.  // Scholastic SuperScience;Feb2009, Vol. 20 Issue 5, p9 

    A quiz concerning the characteristic and behavior of a harbor seal is presented.

  • LONG-TERM OBSERVATIONS OF A HARBOR SEAL HAUL-OUT SITE IN A PROTECTED COVE IN CASCO BAY, GULF OF MAINE. Harris, David E.; Lelli, Barbara; Gupta, Sat // Northeastern Naturalist;2003, Vol. 10 Issue 2, p141 

    Observes the number of harbor seals that haul out on two near-shore ledges in Gun Point Cove, Casco Bay, Gulf of Maine in a period of time. Background on harbor seals; Two values computed for each month of the observation of harbor seals; Variation in the number of harbor seals at a haul-out site.

  • A multivariate analysis of phenotype and paternity in male harbor seals, Phoca vitulina, at Sable Island, Nova Scotia Bowen, W. Don; Wright, Jonathan M.; Coltman, David W. // Behavioral Ecology;Mar/Apr1999, Vol. 10 Issue 2, p169 

    Understanding the links between phenotype and reproductive success is critical to the study of the evolution of mating systems and life-history patterns. We examined the relationship between phenotype and mating success of male harbor seals (Phoca vitulina concolour) at Sable Island, Canada....

  • Movements and site fidelity of harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) in Kattegat, Denmark, with implications for the epidemiology of the phocine distemper virus. Dietz, Rune; Teilmann, Jonas; Andersen, Signe M.; Rigét, Frank; Olsen, Morten T. // ICES Journal of Marine Science / Journal du Conseil;Jan2013, Vol. 70 Issue 1, p186 

    Dietz, R., Teilmann, J., Andersen S. M. Rigét, F., and Olsen, M. T. 2013. Movements and site fidelity of harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) in Kattegat, Denmark, with implications for the epidemiology of the phocine distemper virus. – ICES Journal of Marine Science,...

  • Maternal effects on offspring growth rate and weaning mass in harbour seals. Bowen, W. Don; Ellis, Sara L.; Iverson, Sara J.; Boness, Daryl J. // Canadian Journal of Zoology;Jun2001, Vol. 79 Issue 6, p1088 

    We studied maternal effects on offspring traits during lactation in harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) on Sable Island, Nova Scotia, from 1988 to 1996. Duration of lactation was correlated with rate of pup mass gain (r = -0.34, n = 116) and weaning mass (r = 0.29, n = 154). Pups that grew faster had...

  • Seals forced to choose between perils of sun and sea. Barnett, Adrian // New Scientist;8/8/92, Vol. 135 Issue 1833, p15 

    Reports on a study by Peter Watts of the University of British Columbia on why seals lie out on beaches. His findings; Harm that this way of life poses to seals; How harbor seals avoid overheating.

  • STALKING SEALS. Norlander, Britt // Science World;9/6/2004, Vol. 61 Issue 1, p5 

    Presents information on rehabilitated and wild seals with tags that track their location and diving activities.


Read the Article


Sorry, but this item is not currently available from your library.

Try another library?
Sign out of this library

Other Topics