Every year, Atlantic harbor seals along the New England coast molt during the summer.

Molting is a dynamic process that causes the seals to shed their coat and replace it with new, silver fur. And the harbor seals at the New England Aquarium are molting right now.

As you can see in the video below of Trumpet, the old yellow hair is sticking up and falling out as the new silver coat replaces it. It takes about three weeks for each animal to lose their old coat and grow a beautiful new one.

Trumpet is in the process of molting.

stomach of molting seal

Sometimes, as seen in this photo of Cayenne, the old coat sheds faster than the new hair grows. When hair loss outpaces new growth, patches of dark colored skin are seen where hair has shed.

whiskers of a seal

The harbor seals also shed and grow new whiskers. This is Reggae with all of his whiskers, at the start of molt. Stay tuned to see what he and the rest of our Atlantic harbor seals look like at the end of molt season.

While molting, the harbor seals generally choose to spend a lot of time hauled out, resting on the rocks, and soaking up the sun. If you visit the Aquarium over the next few weeks, there is a good chance you will see what different stages of molting looks like. If any of the seals have finished molting, you will have the pleasure of seeing them with a brand new, beautiful silver coat – up close!

Advice on Sharing the Shore with All Seals

All marine mammals, including the seals you’ll see around Boston, are protected by federal law under the Federal Marine Mammal Protection Act. The law makes it illegal to disturb, feed, hunt, or otherwise harass any marine mammal. Keep a distance of 150 feet, leash dogs, be quiet, and ask others to do so as well. Take the opportunity to observe these remarkable animals from a safe distance!

  1. Stay back (and keep pets) at least 150 feet from seals.
  2. Never chase seals back into the water.
  3. Never cover seals or try to pick up pups.
  4. Reduce your impact by disposing of trash properly so seals and other marine life won’t accidentally mistake it for food.

Learn more about seals!