It would be pretty alarming to wake up to find a fur seal in your backyard, but they are our ocean buddies. The Australian fur seal is the most common seal in Tasmanian waters: however, it is the fourth rarest seal species in the world.
They live around Bass Strait, Tasmania, southern Victoria and southern South Australia but can venture as far north as NSW. They spend most of their time in the sea and come ashore to breed on rocky islands and beaches.
Fur seals are excellent swimmers but they can also get around out of the water by raising the front of their body onto their front flippers. The males and females are physically quite different although they all have big heads, pointy faces with big eyes and long whiskers and very sharp teeth, like a dogs. A thick layer of fat helps them keep warm in the frigid ocean.
The males are larger than the females and can weigh up to 350kg. Males are usually brown or dark grey and have a coarse mane on their neck and shoulders. Females weigh up to 120kg and are more slender and a slivery grey colour with a brown underside.
Fur seals have a dense coat of two layers – a wool-like underfur and long, coarse outer hairs. This double layer traps air which waterproofs and insulates the seal. All seals moult each year, replacing their old fur with new growth.
You can make your neighbourhood friendlier for Australian Fur Seals
Fur seals face several threats to their survival, although they are a protected species. Their main predators are sharks and their pups do not always survive if the mothers spend a long time away at sea feeding. Over fishing can reduce their food sources and entanglement in discarded fishing gear like nets is limiting their population recovery from the decimation of the species in the 1800’s when they were hunted for their fur.
Simple things that you do can make a huge difference to Australia’s animals. That’s why the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife is running Backyard Buddies— to give you tips to help.
What is a backyard buddy?
Backyard buddies are the native animals that share our built-up areas, our beaches and waterways, our backyards and our parks. The fur seal is a backyard buddy.
Backyard buddies are also the local people who value the living things around them and are willing to protect and encourage them by doing a few simple things around their own homes.
So you can be a backyard buddy.
Be a backyard buddy
It’s easy. All you have to do is care... and take a few simple steps.
Step one is to find out what fur seals do and do not like.
Australian fur seals love:
The ocean – they spend most of their lives at sea and rely on an environment with plentiful fish
Squid- they can dive to depths of 200m to find their favourite snack
But they don’t like:
Garden pesticides – these contaminate their habitat and food sources
Competition- commercial fishing upsets the natural fish population numbers and makes it difficult for fur seals to find reliable hunting grounds
Nets and fishing lines – if they get caught in these, it can lead to death
Be a buddy to the Australian Fur Seal
Don’t be surprised if:
Find out more about your buddies
SIGN UP: to receive regular B-mails about animals you’re likely to see in your backyard with tips on how to make your backyard friendly for them.
Fur Seal Fact Sheet (234 KB)