Are Seals Dangerous? Amazing Marine Mammal Facts For Kids!

Martha Martins
Feb 29, 2024 By Martha Martins
Originally Published on Nov 08, 2021
Adult New Zealand sea lion.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.0 Min

Seals are adorable wild animals that are often mistaken for sea lions.

There are 18 species of true seals. The Caribbean monk seal was a seal species that has been extinct for the past 5o years because these seals were easy prey for humans.

Along with that, they were also hunted extensively for oil. Other seal species that are endangered are Saima ringed seals, Mediterranean monk seals, Hawaiian monk seals, and Lacs Des Loups Marins harbor seals. The elephant seal was also falsely placed under the extinct species category as there were no reports of sightings. But authorities, after an extensive search, found eight of them. Now the population has increased and there are around 150,000 northern elephant seals and 650,000 southern elephant seals. Seal populations are lower when compared to the population of other marine mammals, as many of them die at an early age due to natural causes. Seals have a streamlined body and webbed feet. The streamlined body allows them to swim effortlessly by reducing water resistance and the webbed feet help when paddling through the water. They eat any food that is easily available but favor warm-blooded prey. You can find a seal on a beach or in the ocean. These solitary animals can live in water, land, and even on the edges of the ice. Did you know, seals are protected animals. Yes, they are some of the few animals that are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act in almost all countries. Touching them or giving them food might put you in serious trouble. You can even end up in jail or pay lots of money as a fine.

Continue reading to know more about seals. You can also check out our other articles on brown fur seal facts and are sloths endangered.

How dangerous are seals?

Seals look like cute, harmless animals. But they can actually be very dangerous.

Seals are wild animals. They are known for their nasty bites and aggressive behavior towards humans. Since humans hunt seals, we are classified as predators in most of their minds. This is why they behave the same with us as they would with other predators that hunt them.

Seals can be caring too. Paul Nicklen, a 'National Geographic' photographer bonded with a female leopard seal when he went into the Antarctic waters in 2006. He said one female leopard seal was constantly worried about him and would bring dead penguins to feed him. The photos were taken by him to back up his story.

Are elephant seals dangerous?

Elephant seals are carnivores. The southern elephant seal is the biggest seal in the world and they spend most of their time in oceans.

You don't come into contact with an elephant seal that often. They rarely attack humans. However, this does not mean they are not dangerous. These seals can get pretty aggressive when someone enters their territory. They can also feel threatened when you approach them out of the blue. This is not the problem, how they react to it is the actual problem. Even when you have no intentions of hurting the seal and simple approach to pet it, this can be seen as a potential threat. They immediately bite you. One thing that puts you off when it comes to elephant seals is their nasty bite. They have 30 teeth, including razor sharp incisors. This can cause a great deal of pain. In general, though seal bites are less dangerous than a shark or cheetah bite, they can still transmit a lot of viruses which will cause infections in humans. These diseases include:

Encephalitis: Encephalitis is a viral or bacterial infection that causes inflammation of the brain. This is passed on to humans by elephant seals by the transfer of the Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus. Encephalitis is not lethal but it still can cause death in 10% of the affected people.

Alphavirus: Alphaviruses like chikungunya virus, O'Nyong Nyong virus and Ross River virus cause a variety of inconveniences to humans. Some of the symptoms are fever, rash, and arthritis. Alphavirus has a high mortality rate in humans. Southern elephant seals travel long distances and are prone to gaining this virus from lice. This can easily be passed on to humans when their teeth come in contact with your skin. So it is better to avoid elephant seals.

Elephants seals can outrun humans, so there is no way you can escape. They will chase you until they get a taste of your flesh. So think twice before approaching or threatening an elephant seal.

Crabeater seal in Crystal.

What to do if a seal approaches you?

Seals are not bad guys. They don't always attack humans. But it is better to let them make the first move when they approach you. If you have done anything to irritate them, after which you see a seal approaching you, just run in the opposite direction.

You can see a lot of seal pups on beaches and ice filled areas in fall and winter, right after the breeding season. When you are kayaking in places with a high seal population, sometimes one or two seal pups can even get into your kayak. Don't worry or get alarmed. Seals are as intelligent as dogs and have the ability to read our thoughts or intentions based on our body language. Yes, they do have sharp teeth that can send shivers down your spine. But they will only use them if you have any intentions of harming them. Staying calm is one of the most important things when you witness a seal or a group of seals in the wild. This makes you look less scary and more approachable or friendly. They explore things with their mouth as their flippers are not sensitive. Flippers are flattened limbs that are used to check the density of water, and give the animal more control when it turns or rotates. This can be mistaken by human beings. When people are not aware of this mouthing behavior, they think the animal is trying to harm them and get defensive. This can trigger the seal and the human beings will probably end up with a nasty bite on their hands or legs.

Seals are also very protective of their breeding territory and young ones. They do not use markings that are visible to humans to warn us before we step into their territory. However, they have this habit of flapping repeatedly when they are angry. Lucky for us, this is our cue to leave. A seal approaching you is different from you approaching a seal. Seals are cautious but also very curious animals. They want to know what you are and what are the things that you have. Seals hopping on kayaks is something quite a few lucky people experience. But beware, as experts say, that things do not end well for the seal or for you when the animal gets too comfortable. Let them do their thing while you make sure that you are entirely calm. Take a picture or two and go on your way as more interaction might bring trouble. You can never predict the mood of a seal, so it is better to keep your distance. Avoid petting them too, as it is against the law in many countries. Just paddle away if you are in the sea or walk away when you are on land once you have taken a close look at the seal that approached you. Disturbing seals while they are resting can push them into panic mode. This only brings more harm to you.

Do seals have neck bones?

Seals can shoot their necks out in a surprising way. They also flap their necks and some species can bend their necks and form an arch. All this makes us wonder if seals have necks? Yes, seals have neck bones, just like any other normal marine animal.

Usually, when the vertebrae are interlocked and tightly packed, they restrict movement. In seals, the interlocked vertebrae are very loosely packed, which allows them to twist and turn their necks without breaking them. Sometimes it looks like some species don't have necks at all. But they actually have hidden necks. The neck length shoots up when they are hunting or when it's absolutely necessary. We can see seals extending their necks when they are being fed or when they are playing with balls in a seal circus. When they are resting, they retract their necks.

Leopard seals have found a way to entertain themselves. This animal drives away other seals and penguins that reach the shore back into the water. They do this repeatedly without taking a rest until the seals and penguins make it to the shore. They do this to enhance the hunting skills of pups and for recreation.

Adult seals are mostly solitary but can be very attached to the young one. Seals can be extremely stressed when their pup is separated from them. These animals only have one pup every year this is why they hardly let the pup out of their sight.

The Department Of Conservation will come rescue seals if they are in danger. The conservation of Antarctic seals is a treaty that prevents leopard seals from being over hunted by humans for their fur coat.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for Are seals dangerous? Amazing marine mammals fun facts for kids! then why not take a look at Are crabs arachnids? What are crabs classified as?, or African elephant Vs Asian elephant: Interesting land mammal difference.

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Written by Martha Martins

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Linguistics

Martha Martins picture

Martha MartinsBachelor of Arts specializing in Linguistics

Martha is a full-time creative writer, content strategist, and aspiring screenwriter who communicates complex thoughts and ideas effectively. She has completed her Bachelor's in Linguistics from Nasarawa State University. As an enthusiast of public relations and communication, Martha is well-prepared to substantially impact your organization as your next content writer and strategist. Her dedication to her craft and commitment to delivering high-quality work enables her to create compelling content that resonates with audiences.

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