Freshwater Habitat Use and Feeding Ecology in the Kangalaksiorvik Lake Harbour Seal
The Kangalaksiorvik Lake harbour seal (Phoca vitulina) inhabits a freshwater lake in northern Labrador, but it is unclear whether this represents a seasonal or year-round phenomenon. While some freshwater habitat use has been seen in some groups of seals in Nunavik on the Ungava peninsula and in other parts of the world, this behaviour is rare and poorly documented.
We propose to document the extent that the Kangalaksiorvik Lake harbour seal relies on a freshwater habitat, and describe its feeding ecology, distribution, habitat use and genetic
structure. Harbour seals in eastern Canada have been generally characterised by COSEWIC as belonging to two designatable units representing distinct subspecies: The widely distributed Phoca vitulina concolor which consists of the harbour seals found on the Canadian Atlantic and Arctic coasts and extends from Greenland to the United States, and
Phoca vitulina mellonae which consists of the freshwater seals of the Lacs des Loups Marins area of Nunavik’s Ungava peninsula. Whether the genetic structure of the Kangalaksiorvik Lake harbour seal is similar to either of these two subspecies or if it is its own unique subspecies is unknown. Kangalaksiorvik Lake itself has been identified by the Nunatsiavut Government as a special cultural landscape within the Torngat Mountains region. This project will characterize the freshwater habitat of this seal, and the physical and chemical properties of this lake. Knowledge gained will help build the research profile for the
Torngat Mountains base camp, is relevant to local Inuit concerns and interests, and will enable more informed natural resource management decisions in the region.