Bearded Seal – A Visitor from Up North

Bearded Seals are unusual visitors to most of Newfoundland – especially the Avalon Peninsula – but it does happen from time to time as a wayward individual wanders down from further north or hitches a ride on the arctic ice that drifts our way every winter/spring. The name “bearded” comes from their long, white whiskers (which are very sensitive and used to detect food on the mirky ocean floor) – although many people know them by a different name derived from another characteristic feature – “square flipper”. The largest of the arctic seals, adults can reach 8 feet in length and weigh an astounding 750 pounds.

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This Bearded Seal was hanging out in Renews a few years back … the furthest south of the five I’ve seen on the Avalon Peninsula. Check out those long whiskers!

Although I’ve been fortunate to spot four Bearded Seals on the Avalon Peninsula over the past decade or so, I was still surprised when my friend Andrew McCarthy posted a photo of one on Twitter yesterday afternoon – from right here in St. John’s. This morning my daughter, nephew and I headed down the harbour to look for it … and sure enough, there it was looking very comfortable on the ice that had formed in the shelter of the city’s boat basin.

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It was relatively unperturbed as we stood on the nearby wharf, snapping photos and enjoying this visitor from “upalong”. Although still a big animal, the relative small size (for a Bearded Seal) and the dark stripe on the forehead identify this one as an immature — maybe just a year old.

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You never know what you’ll spot when you’re out & about!!

 

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This was the first Bearded Seal I ever saw – a much larger individual chilling out in Fermeuse during a Christmas Bird Count.

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This fella was hanging out in Bay Bulls a couple springs ago – delighting tourists (and tour guides alike!) as they boarded a nearby tour boat. I wonder if they realized how unusual a sighting it was?!?!

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