Distribution and Habitat
The Baikal seal is endemic to Lake Baikal in Siberia. It whelps on fast ice in ice lairs and uses haulouts on land during ice-free periods.
Adult Baikal seals are 1.2-1.4 m in length, and weigh 63-70 kg. Newborn pups are 64-66 cm long and weigh 4.0-4.2 kg. Pups are born with a coat of long, white hair. Typical adult appearance is illustrated above. Females are sexually mature at age 2-5 years and males at 4-7 years. Annual pregnancy rate is said to be 88%. Gestation lasts 11 months and lactation for 2-2.5 months. Longevity is not known.
Recent estimates of Baikal seal numbers are lacking, but it is believed that the present population numbers approximately 50,000 seals.
Threats to the Species
Baikal seals are legally hunted, and concern has been expressed that a high incidence of struck-and-lost animals has led to substantial under-reporting of hunt related mortality. Increased human disturbance, and habitat degradation from pulp and paper industrial pollution are also of concern. Mass mortalities related to a morbillovirus (related to canine distemper) have been reported and may be related to health stresses in the seals caused by pollution.
Reijnders, P. et al. 1993. Seals, Fur Seals, Sea Lions, and Walrus. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN Seal Specialist Group. Gland, Switzerland. 87pp.
Rice, D.W. 1998. Marine mammals of the world: systematics and distribution. The Society for Marine Mammalogy Special Publication Number 4. 231 pp.