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Guadalupe Fur Seal (Arctocephalus townsendi)

Status | Taxonomy | Species Description | Habitat | Distribution |
Population Trends | Threats | Conservation Efforts | Regulatory Overview |
Key Documents | More Info


Gudalupe fur seal
Guadalupe fur seal with flipper tag
(Arctocephalus townsendi)
Photo: NOAA National Marine Mammal Laboratory, Permit No. 16087


ESA Threatened - throughout its range
MMPA Depleted - throughout its range

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Otariidae
Genus: Arctocephalus
Species: townsendi

Species Description
Weight: males: 400 pounds (180 kg)
females: 110 pounds (50 kg)
Length: males: 7 feet (2 m)
females: 5 feet (1.5 m)
Appearance:  dark brown to black, narrow, they have a flat head with a pointed, long snout and broad foreflippers
Lifespan: estimated around 20 years
Diet: squid, mackerel, and lantern fish
Behavior: solitary, non-social animals; males are "polygamous" and may mate with up to 12 females during a single breeding season, which is from June-August

Guadalupe fur seals are members of the "eared seal" family, Otariidae. Guadalupe fur seals are sexually "dimorphic" with males reaching average lengths of about 7 feet (2 m) and weighing about 400 pounds (180 kg) while females average lengths and weights are much smaller at about 5 feet (1.5 m) and 110 pounds (50 kg), respectively. They have a narrow, flat head with a pointed, narrow, and long snout. Their foreflippers are broad, with some hair, reaching slightly past their wrist. Their coloration is dark brown to black with adult males having tan or yellow hairs on the back of the mane.

Guadalupe fur seals are solitary, non-social animals. Males are "polygamous" and may mate with up to 12 females during a single breeding season. Males form small territories that they defend by roaring or coughing. Breeding season is June through August. Females arriving in early June, and pups are born a few days after their arrival. A female will mate about a week after giving birth to her pup. Weaning occurs around 9 months.

Guadalupe fur seals feed mainly at night on squid, mackerel, and lantern fish by diving up to depths of 65 feet (20 m).

Guadalupe fur seals reside in the tropical waters of the Southern California/ Mexico region. During breeding season, they are found in coastal rocky habitats and caves. Little is known about their whereabouts during the non-breeding season.

guadalupe fur seal range map
Guadalupe Fur Seal Range Map
(click for larger view PDF)

Guadalupe fur seal
Guadalupe Fur Seal
(Arctocephalus townsendi)
Photo: NOAA

Guadalupe fur seals are non-migratory and their breeding grounds are almost entirely on Guadalupe Island, Mexico. There are small populations off of Baja California on San Benito Island and off of Southern California at San Miguel Island. It is the only species of the Arctocephalus genus that occurs north of the equator.

Population Trends
The Guadalupe fur seal population is slowly recovering from the brink of extinction. The current population abundance is approximately 10,000 animals. Of all the fur seal species, this one is the least studied due to their limited geographic locations. The Guadalupe fur seal population does appear to be increasing annually.


  • hunting, historically (1700-1800s)
  • entanglement

In the 1700s and 1800s, commercial sealers heavily hunted Guadalupe fur seals to the point where the species was thought to be extinct by the early 1900s.

Insufficient data exist on the incidental bycatch of Guadalupe fur seals in fishing gear, although some juvenile seals have been documented with entanglement injuries.

Conservation Efforts
NMFS has published viewing guidelines for various seal species found in California, which are also applicable to Guadalupe fur seals, though they are rarely seen.

Regulatory Overview
The Guadalupe fur seal was listed as threatened throughout its range on December 16, 1985 under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and is also protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, as amended. In 1975, the government of Mexico declared Guadalupe Island a pinniped sanctuary. NMFS has classified the U.S. Guadalupe fur seal stock as a "strategic" stock.

Key Documents
(All documents are in PDF format.)

Title Federal Register Date
ESA Listing Rule 50 FR 51252 12/16/1985
Stock Assessment Reports n/a various

More Information

Updated: November 5, 2014

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