Leopard seals (Hydrurga leptonyx) are one of the most awesome marine predators and while they regularly prey on warm-blooded animals such as penguins, birds and other seals, their diet is composed primarily of Antarctic krill. For this, they have specialised tri-cusped teeth to sieve krill from the water. Female leopard seals are actually larger than males and can reach 600 kg and 3.6 m in length. Leopard seals are more slender than elephant seals, having a long streamlined body, constricted neck and a massive lizard-like head. They are coloured grey above and light grey below with dark spots (hence the name 'leopard' seal). Although both the elephant and leopard seal breed far to the south of Tasmania, individuals are seen in our waters and may come ashore to rest. Usually people assume the seal is sick or injured, however, often the seal is just resting and will head south after they have concluded their rest.
Please contact the Marine Conservation Program on 0427 942 537 if you see a leopard seal. It is important for your own safety not to disturb the animal. It is recommended that observers keep a 10 metre distance from animal. See our guidelines for observing seals in the wild for further information.
Leopard seals breed on the Antarctic pack ice and range from the Antarctic coast to the sub-Antarctic and sub-tropical seas. An average of five leopard seals visit the coast of Tasmania each year, but up to 18 have been sighted in one year (1990).
'Scats' or faeces have been collected from leopard seals that haul out in Tasmania and studies indicate that whilst in Tasmanian waters the seals are preying upon shearwaters, cormorants and little penguins as well as cephalopods and fish.
Leopard seals use a range of vocalisations, as you can hear here.