The Bearded Seal also known as the square flipper seal is so named because of their long whiskers. They have small heads in comparison to the sizes of their bodies that range from gray to brown in color. They are earless and have a heavy jaw. The bearded seal is considered a medium-sized seal within the seal family weighing between four hundred and eight hundred pounds and ranging between six and half feet to about eight and half feet long. Both sexes are about the same size.
These solitary animals are found in the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean and come in two subspecies the Erignathus Barbatus Barbatus and the Erignathus Barbatus Nautics. There is no current data of the populous of these magnificent creatures. They migrate to gravel beaches in open water, and in Canada can be found in the rivers that flow into the Hudson Bay. These amazing animals are prey for orca whales, walruses, and polar bears. Because of this when sitting on a block of ice the seal is watching the water for a quick escape if needed into the ocean. They eat a variety of fish-like flatfish, sculpin and cod along with crustaceans like shrimp and crabs, as well as mollusks like clams and whelks.
Female bearded seals usually reach sexual maturity at five years, for the males maturing a year to two later at six or seven years. These seals are unique in that like the monk seals they have two pairs of teats and the females soon after weaning, mate again. The males sing a long-lasting warbling note during the mating season that ends with a distinct moan or sigh that attracts the females. These sounds can be heard for up to twelve miles away. Males are very territorial and remain in the same area each year and will fight to protect their females and the territory they gave claimed. The gestation period for the females is about eleven months with nine months being the active gestation period. The bearded seal gives birth to a single pup, and their pups are born on small blocks of ice between March and May and have light patches on their head, face and back and are a grayish-brown color. About an hour after they are born, they enter the water and almost immediately become proficient swimmers. They nurse for about eighteen days and quickly gain weight. When they are weaned, they molt into their permanent coat.
There is a growing concern for the bearded seal with global warming, decreased food supplies caused by commercial fishermen, and the oil and gas interests that degrade their environment. Currently, the bearded seal is classified as low risk on the IUCN Red List.