Habitat and Migration

The Hooded seal, Cystophora cristata, is a pelagic deep diving pinniped in the Family Phocidae that inhabits the North Atlantic to the Arctic ocean (figure 1). The NW Atlantic Hooded seals are migratory animals and the waters they inhabit are highly dynamic and productive, demonstrating pronounced seasonal and annual variation in ocean climate. Andersen et al (2013) found that Hooded seals in general seem to prefer a surface temperature range of between -8°C and 5°C.

Hooded Seal Range Map (N Atlantic to Arctic Ocean)
Figure 1. Courtesy of The Animal Files. The distribution of the Hooded seal.

The Hooded seal population is thought to consist of three different breeding stocks (Blix 2005), however they all have an annual migration pattern. The different stocks breed around March off southern Labrador and/or the northern Newfoundland coast, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and in Davis Strait. They leave these breeding areas in early April to feed, and most migrate to the Denmark strait in June early July to moult, however satellite technology has shown the Jan-Mayen stock concentrate along the ice edge north of Jan-Mayen (Blix, 2005). After the moult they then migrate along the west coast of Greenland over to the Labrador shelf, Davis Strait, and Baffin Bay area, where they remain before returning to the Newfoundland/Gulf areas in late autumn or early winter (Andersen et al. 2013).







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