Mating between harp seals
While the courtship between a male and female harp seal usually occurs on land, mating is often done in the water. Around ages five and six, a female harp seal matures enough to finally bear young. Every year after this the female will return to the ice to give birth to one pup in February.  After nursing her young the mother leaves to go mate right again. After 3 months the fertilized egg implants as an embryo in the uterus.  This makes it possible to give birth while the ice is not melted.
 Silly Pup
Photo provided by Peter Brake

Females are pregnant for about 7.5 months. When giving birth, mothers find a spot on the ice that they find to be stable, known as “pack ice”.  They do this because they want to give their pup the best chance to survive; after the mother leaves them, they are left unable to swim or find food for seven to eight weeks or until the ice starts to melt. Mothers nurse their pups with a milk that is about 50% fat for about 12 days. During this period the pups gain on average 5 pounds a day. Harp seals are known for having “milk stealers” or pups that suckle on the milk of an unrelated mother seal. If this happens the pup of that mother will often die because it has not received sufficient nutrition to survive. This extra fat is very necessary for survival as the pup is stuck on the ice unable to find food or swim. A few days into this stage the pup molts and loses its white fuzzy coat. During that time pups lose almost 50% of their weight. It is not uncommon for pups to die during this period.  

If you want to know more about the habitat of this creature, follow this link!