This very common seal is found throughout the Arctic wherever there is
stable ice near land, especially in bays, but also in lakes and river
openings. They are named for the many dark ringed spots that are surrounded
by a silvery color on the back and sides. The underbelly is silver. These
small seals resemble the larger harbor seal, reaching only 4 to 4 ½ feet and
weighing 150 - 200 pounds. The Latin name hispidus means "rough and bristly"
referring to their fur. It is thought that these seals may live up to 40
years, although many survive only through their mid-twenties. Ringed seals
feed mainly on polar cod and shrimp-like animals. Population estimates for
ringed seal are between 3 ½ to 6 million, which makes them the most abundant
of the Arctic seals.
The young are born in lairs, or dens which the female often digs out in
a snow bank. This shelter is thought to protect the pup from predators such
as Arctic foxes and polar bears, as well as the bitter cold winds. The white
haired babies are 26 inches long and weigh about 10 pounds. The pup remains
with the mother for 6 - 8 weeks before it is weaned. During this time the
pups are sought after by the native people who hunt them for their silvery
pelt. During this time the pups are known as "silver jars." In late fall and
winter ringed seals live under the ice by maintaining breathing holes, while
younger seals stay at the edge of the ice where there is open water.