Much like dolphins, seals seem like friendly characters full of personality. They come across as curious, playful, intelligent and cautious, both in the wild and in captivity. But is there any truth in this? And what are seals’ personalities really like?
That’s what we’re here to find out. At Deep Sea World, we spend a lot of time alongside these beautiful animals, and so have gotten to know their temperaments, behaviours and habits pretty well. Although they are bursting with their own individual personalities, our seals are friendly because they are met with us each day and have grown up with humans around them. If left unthreatened, seals aren’t a danger to humans and they can be quite friendly.
So, if you’ve ever asked the question, “are seals friendly?”, this post is for you. We’ll take a closer look at the typical personality traits of seals, before introducing you to some of the residents of our much-loved Seal Harbour exhibit.
Seals are sociable creatures that live in colonies, spending time at sea and on land in large groups. This is, however, more about safety and survival than a desire to form close-knit relationships, with seals understanding that there are greater risks in isolation than there are as part of the herd.
In the wild, seals are naturally cautious of humans and are much more likely to stay out of sight and away from people. They’re in no way aggressive, but there are cases of seals exhibiting aggressive behaviour towards humans, particularly when they feel threatened or are protecting their young.
In sanctuaries like Deep Sea World’s Seal Harbour, however, this is a totally different story. The minute these animals feel safe and comfortable, their personalities truly come to the surface.
Seals can be timid, shy and quiet, or boisterous friendly, playful, and confident – just like people. As a matter of fact, recent research shows that seals exhibit these exact types of behaviours within their colonies in the wild too, with animals forming closer bonds depending on their personality and characteristics.
Interestingly, biologists have also discovered that the more confident and boisterous female seals are, the larger pups they tend to wean. This research could hold the key to learning more about the personalities, traits, and characteristics of these animals, particularly how these things relate to their social hierarchies and interactions.
Watching seals safely in the wild
Seals may be relatively shy and placid in the wild, but it’s important to stay well away from them, even if they do seem friendly. This is for their protection as much as yours.
Since seals are naturally fearful of humans, getting too close is likely to disrupt their normal routine – be it feeding, sleeping, mating, or nursing their young. And this can have a surprisingly big impact, resulting in pups becoming separated from their mothers, missed opportunities to catch a meal and injuries from racing over sharp rocks in an effort to escape.
Of course, it’s perfectly OK to watch wild seals from a distance, and the UK is one of the best places in the world to do just that. Our shores are home to any number of seal colonies, so catching a glimpse of common, grey, and harbour seals is relatively common.
With that said, it’s important to always do so quietly and from a distance. Keep dogs on a tight lead should you see a group of seals and never approach the animals, even if they seem friendly and curious.
Autumn through to spring tends to be the most active time for the seal pupping season, and the period when seals are most vulnerable to disturbance. Keep a good 100m+ from wild seals throughout this period – a good rule to live by all year.
Meet the residents of Deep Sea World’s Seal Harbour
Here at Deep Sea World, our purpose-built Seal Harbour exhibit is home to a small but growing family of seals, 2 of which joined us from our sister aquarium, Tynemouth.
From a personality and friendliness perspective, you couldn’t ask for a more amicable bunch of animals. Our seals each have their own characters and personalities, making it tricky not to have your favourites!
Ready to meet the gang? Find out more about the residents of Seal Harbour below…
Laura is our oldest seal and only female. At 32 years old, she is a wise woman who doesn’t let anyone mess with her. She is sassy when she needs to be but overall, she is unbothered and loves eating and lying in the sun.
Here at Seal Harbour, we commonly get asked about Laura’s cloudy eye. This happened as a result of surgery to remove a cataract, which sadly resulted in a slipped disc, meaning that Laura is now partially in one eye. Don’t worry, though, as this doesn’t stop her from keeping the boys in check!
Benji and Cody are half-brothers who joined us from our sister aquarium in Tynemouth! Benji is the oldest of the two at 10 and Cody is 9. Benji is a cheeky chap who is always trying to outsmart our aquarists to steal fish from the bucket. Cody, meanwhile, often copies his big brother’s habits but can be more shy and reserved.
Nova is the newest member of our family here at Seal Harbour. At two months old, Nova is a ball of confidence and fun. Messing with his Mum, Laura, and trying to keep up with the boys, he is growing into quite the character. You’re welcome to come and meet Nova but be warned, you’ll want to take him home with you!
So, are seals friendly? We’d say it’s a resounding yes. Sure, they’re a little shy in the wild and it’s important to give them space to do their own thing. But the reality is that these animals are bursting with character and personality, and are all too happy to interact with visitors here at Seal Harbour.
Keen to meet our cute-as-a-button residents? Book your tickets to Deep Sea World.