Saimaa ringed seal

Saimaa ringed seal (pdf)

The Saimaa ringed seal became an entirely lake-bound species at the end of the last Ice Age some 8,000 years ago when the lakes of eastern Finland were cut off from what is nowadays the Baltic Sea. The Saimaa ringed seal is Finland’s only endemic mammal and it is only found in the Saimaa lake district. Its main habitats include the lake areas of the national parks of Linnansaari and Kolovesi as well as Lake Joutenvesi and Lake Pihlajavesi. In the early 20th century, Saimaa ringed seals were regarded as pests. From 1882 until 1948, a bounty was paid for killing them. In 1955, the Saimaa ringed seal was protected from hunting by law because its population had become too sparse. The seal population continued declining until the early 1980s when there were an estimated 180 seals in the Saimaa lake district. Thanks to the protection measures introduced at that time, the size of the population has slightly grown and the prospects for the survival of pups have improved. However, the habitats of the Saimaa ringed seal are continuously being infringed on by human activity. Today, the greatest threats to the seal are net fishing and disturbance to its breeding.


The Saimaa Ringed Seal (Pusa hispida saimensis, Finnish: saimaannorppa) is a subspecies of Ringed Seal (Pusa hispida) . They are among the most endangered seals in the world, having a total population of only about 260 individuals. The only existing population of these seals is found in Lake Saimaa, Finland (hence the name). The population is descended from Ringed Seals that were separated from the rest when the land rose after the last ice age. This seal, along with the Ladoga Seal and the Baikal Seal, is one of the few living freshwater seals.

US National Marine Fisheries Service Saimaa seal web page

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