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The Ringed Seal is the smallest species in the seal family. They have a small head and a short snout. Ringed Seals get their name from the pattern of light rings against a dark background that is visible on its coat. Ringed Seals are the most abundant seals in Arctic waters.

Weight: Adults, 50 to 70 kg (110 to 154 lb). Length: Adults, average 1.5 m (5 ft).              

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Ringed Seals are found in ocean waters around the North Pole, including all seas of the Arctic Ocean.

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Ringed Seal habitat is strongly linked to the sea ice. Ringed Seals live in Arctic waters and use sea ice as a platform to raise pups, rest and moult. In winter and spring, breeding adults prefer stable, landfast ice with good snow coverage, such as pressure ridges, bays and coastlines. Snow cover is important because females give birth in snow lairs. During the open water season, seals move around through areas where they can find food.

Ringed Seals create breathing holes in the ice. They use the claws on their flippers to scrape away ice to keep breathing holes open. In the spring, Ringed Seals haul themselves out on the sea ice to moult and bask in the sun.

Ringed Seals eat a wide variety of small prey, including Arctic Cod, shrimp, and other fish and crustaceans. Female Ringed Seals can give birth to a single pup per year in March or April. Pups are born in a snow lair that protects them from the environment and predators.

Ringed Seals are an important traditional source of food, fuel, and pelts (furs) for Inuvialuit. Ringed Seals are the main prey for Polar Bears and important prey for Arctic Foxes.

It is difficult to determine population trends for Ringed Seals. They are still abundant, and there are about 2.3 million Ringed Seals in Canada and nearby waters. However, their Arctic sea ice habitat has changed a lot since the 1970s. The extent and amount of sea ice and snow cover are declining and the open-water season is getting longer.

Habitat change due to climate change is the most serious long term threat to Ringed Seals – especially reduction in snow cover during the pup-rearing period and reduction in sea ice. Climate change will have direct and indirect effects on Ringed Seal, including loss of habitat and expansion of human activities.

Activities like shipping, tourism and industrial development, can lead to disturbance, habitat change and pollution.  

In 2019, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assessed Ringed Seal as a species of Special Concern in Canada.