Bearded Seal

Inuktitut name - Ugyuk

Colour - dark greyish to yellowish, darker on back

Length - 2.5 to 4 metres (males larger than females)

Shape - muzzle broad with thick tufts of bristles on sides; forehead high

Behaviour - at surface, swims with head and back out of water; solitary or in groups of 3 to 5 animals except when breeding; often seen at the edges of leads in spring (during the moult); voice can be heard through the ice in early spring; diet is primarily benthic invertebrates, but they also eat some fish (mainly Arctic Cod)

Distribution - prefers shallow water in summer where loose pack ice is present; unable to maintain breathing holes in ice, and so rarely found in consolidated pack ice in winter, but commonly present where there are leads, polynyas, and loose floes; can also survive in fast ice; some over-winter at the north end of Baffin Bay in thin ice areas and in the shear ice zone in Beaufort Sea; a few frequent Hudson Bay, with more in Beaufort Sea

Sensitivity - hauled-out on the ice may dive when approached by a low-flying aircraft or airplane; scientific evidence about reaction to vessels is lacking

Note - Inuit and Inuvialuit hunters take many of these seals each year for their thick, valuable skins

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