Visitors from the Artic
Narragansett Bay's Harbor Seals
Some of Rhode Island’s most interesting tourists visit our shores during the wintertime. No, they’re not New Yorkers, looking to get away from the Christmas crowds… they’re harbor seals, and Save The Bay is making it easier for us to see these visitors from the Artic.
Come and see these furry visitors to Narragansett Bay up close in their winter playground aboard the M/V Alletta Morris. Each cruise includes a lecture by an expert guide and binoculars are provided.
While not forming groups as large as some other seals, they are gregarious animals. When not actively feeding, the seals will haul themselves out of the water and onto a preferred resting site. The seals tend to hug the coast, not venturing more than 15 miles offshore.
Both courtship and mating occurs underwater. The mating system is not known, but thought to be polygamous. Females are thought to give birth once per year, with a gestation period of eleven months.
Birthing of pups occurs annually on shore as the weather starts to warm up around February. The pups are almost always born singly and well developed, capable of swimming and diving within hours. Suckling for three to four weeks, pups feed on the mother’s rich, fatty milk and grow rapidly; born weighing up to 35 pounds, the pups may double their weight by the time of weaning.
Harbor Seals must spend a great deal of time on shore when moulting, which the seals undergo shortly after breeding. This onshore time is important to the life cycle and can be disturbed when there is substantial human presence. A female will mate again immediately following the weaning of her pup.
Cruises begin in late November, departing from Bowen’s Wharf on Friday, at 1:30pm and 2:30pm; Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm. Saturday and Sunday cruises are two-hour trips that include a stop at the Rose Island Lighthouse. Tours run weekends and school vacation days through April.