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Worldwide, adult harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) typically limit their movements and activity toresult, the ecological impact of harbor seals is viewed as limited to relatively small spatial scales. Harbor seals in the Pacific Northwest are believed to remainsite, one of several contributing factors to the current stock designation. However, movement patterns within the region are not well understood because previous studies have used radio-telemetry, which has range limitations. Our objective was to use satellite-telemetry to determine the regional spatial scale of movements.


Satellite tags were deployed on 20 adult seals (n=16 males and 4 females) from two rocky reefs and a mudflat-bay during April–May 2007. Standard filtering algorithms were used to remove outliers, resulting in an average (± SD) of 693 (±377) locations per seal over 110 (±32) days. A particle filter was implemented to interpolate locations temporally and decrease erroneous locations on land. Minimum over-water distances were calculated between filtered locations and each seal's capture site to show movement of seals over time relative to their capture site, and we estimated utilization distributions from kernel density analysis to reflect spatial use. Eight males moved >100 km from their capture site at least once, two of which traveled round trip to and from the Pacific coast, a total distance >400 km. Disjunct spatial use patterns observed provide new insight into general harbor seal behavior.


Long-distance movements and disjunct spatial use of adult harbor seals have not been reported for the study region and are rare worldwide in such a large proportion of tagged individuals. Thus, the ecological influence of individual seals may reach farther than previously assumed.

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Plos One





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