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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, North American Mammals

  Carnivora · Otariidae · Callorhinus ursinus

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Callorhinus ursinus

Northern Fur Seal

Order: Carnivora
Family: Otariidae

Image of Callorhinus ursinus
Callorhinus ursinus - male, upper right; female, upper left; juvenile, lower right
Click to enlarge. (91 kb)

Conservation Status: Vulnerable. This species continues to decline in spite of conservation efforts.

Northern fur seals breed on islands near Russia, Alaska, and California, but not necessarily on the island where they were born—females tagged as pups have been found breeding on other islands. The seals range widely in the North Pacific, some swimming as far south as the US-Mexican border, and in the western Pacific, as far south as southern Japan. Females and their offspring tend to travel farther than males, who usually stay in Alaskan waters in the non-breeding season. Population numbers in some areas plummeted in the late 20th century, for a variety of reasons. From 1956-1968, 300,000 females were killed annually for their fur. Fisheries take millions of tons of fish—the seals' food—every year, and many seals died when they were trapped in tough, plastic, 30-mile-long fishing nets.

Also known as:

Alaska Fur Seal

Sexual Dimorphism:

Males are much larger than females.


Average: up to 2.1 m males; 1.2-1.5 m females


Range: 136-279 kg males; 30-50 kg females


Linnaeus, C., 1758.  Systema Naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classis, ordines, genera, species cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis, p. 37. Tenth Edition, Vol. 1. Laurentii Salvii, Stockholm, 824 pp.


Mammal Species of the World (opens in a new window).

Distribution of Callorhinus ursinus

Image of Callorhinus ursinus
Click to enlarge. (46kb)

Skull of Callorhinus ursinus
Click to enlarge. (41kb)

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