Galapagos fur seals (Arctocephalus galapagoensis) are endemic to the Galapagos Islands, and are found across most of the archipelago. They are almost as abundant as the Galapagos sea lion, but you won’t see them nearly as frequently. That’s because they tend to live along the less-visited rocky shores of the islands, often sheltering in the shade of boulders, caves or under lava ledges, making them harder to spot. Two of the best places to see them are James Bay on Santiago and Darwin Bay on Genovesa.
The Galapagos fur seal is the smallest of all the otariids, or eared seals. On average, adult males are about 4 feet 11 inches long and weigh about 141 pounds, while adult females are about a foot shorter and weigh half as much.
Another characteristic that sets the Galapagos fur seal apart from other seals is the amount of time it spends on land. Most seals spend about half their time on land and half in the water. But Galapagos fur seals spend about 70% of their time on land.
When they do venture into the water to hunt, Galapagos fur seals tend to stay relatively close to shore and near the surface, although they are capable of diving to depths of 550 feet. They are also primarily nocturnal hunters, as their prey — which typically consists of fish, squid and shellfish — is easier to catch at night.
The Galapagos fur seal is currently listed as endangered by the IUCN Red List, with the total population consisting of around 10,000 mature individuals. During the 19th century, however, things were far worse for the fur seals, when whalers and sealers harvested them almost to extinction. Galapagos fur seals are now fully protected, but they remain vulnerable thanks to human activities, El Niño weather events and climate change.
Read more about the Galapagos Fur Seal at Galapagos Conservation Trust.
Other Galapagos Wildlife