Friends Or Foe: Do Leopard Seals Attack Humans?

do leopard seals attack humans

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Leopard seals are some of the largest and most dangerous predators that inhabit the Antarctic. They are excellent hunters that are equipped with large teeth that they use to lock onto their prey.

These seals, despite their cuddly appearance, are surprisingly dangerous, and they often weigh more than many species of bear and are larger than all the big cats.

In this post, we take a closer look at the Leopard seal and answer do Leopard seals attack humans?

Yes, Leopard seals do attack and even kill humans. Although rare, Leopard seals will chase and bite humans and are very dangerous animals.

Would A Leopard Seals Attack A Human?

Leopard seals are found in the icy region of Antarctica, which means it’s unlikely that most of us will ever come across one of these animals in the wild.

That said, they do come into contact with scientists and explorers every once in a while, which is why it’s important to learn and be aware of these animals in case you ever run into one.

Leopard seals are the only seal species that are known to hunt and kill warm-blooded prey, they will even eat other seals from time to time.

Although it would be extremely rare, a Leopard seal may certainly attack a human. There have been a few incidents where these seals have attacked and even killed humans.

If these seals feel threatened, intimidated, or provoked, they will not hesitate to attack, especially around food or their pups.

Has A Leopard Seal Ever Killed A Human?

In 2003, Kirsty Brown, 28, a British marine biologist was snorkeling off the coast of Antarctica when she was attacked and dragged to her death by a Leopard seal.

This was thought to be the first human fatality from a Leopard seal and launched an investigation into the species.

It was found that these animals are more curious than aggressive toward humans. Paul Nicklen, a photographer found this out when a female Leopard seal would repeatedly bring him worn-out dead penguins.

Paul interprets this as the seal trying to learn him how to hunt for himself, which is an interesting behavior that shows these animals are intelligent.

A Scottish explorer named Gareth Wood in 1985 was almost dragged off the ice by a Leopard seal.

Luckily his companions managed to force the seal to release its grip by repeatedly kicking the seal in the head with crampon ice boots.

Had it not been for Gareth’s companions, he likely would have died from this Leopard seal attack.

Are Leopard Seals Dangerous To Humans?

Leopard seals are certainly dangerous to humans. They are more than capable of killing people and are certainly not afraid of us.

These animals are HUGE and have exceptional hunting skills that could easily catch us off-guard whilst in the unfamiliar Antarctic.

When these seals hunt penguins, they use the element of surprise to catch their prey. They hide behind ice caps and under the surface to keep a watchful eye on their prey.

They know that the penguins must enter the water to feed and wait patiently out of sight for them to do so, before striking and tearing their prey to shreds.

Leopard seals will often come right up to explorers and visitors to check them out, and if they don’t like what they see or feel intimidated or threatened, they may attack.

It’s incredibly important to be vigilant around these animals, after all, they are apex predators that dominate the icy waters that they inhabit.

Are Leopard Seals Aggressive?

Leopard seals are solitary animals that prefer to live and hunt alone, they are particularly aggressive to one another when around food.

These seals are rarely seen in groups of more than two, as they prefer to live on their own and do not play well with each other.

In fact, Leopard seals will even eat other seals. They will happily take pups of crabeater, Weddell, Ross, and Southern Elephant seals as an easy meal.

These seals are generally not very aggressive toward humans, provided they are admired from a distance and treated with respect.

But they will defend themselves fiercely if they feel provoked, intimidated, or threatened.

Final Thoughts

So, do Leopard seals attack humans? Yes, they have attacked humans in the past and have even killed people before.

This makes these animals incredibly dangerous. They have huge teeth that can inflict serious damage to a human, and their teeth are designed to lock once they grip onto something.

Leopard seals are apex predators that should not be taken lightly, and although it’s rare that most of us will visit Antarctica and find ourselves around one, if you do, please be careful.

Hopefully, this post has been helpful and you’ve learned why Leopard seals attack humans and why they are dangerous to be around.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I hope you’ve enjoyed it. If you have, I would appreciate it if you would consider sharing it with a friend that may find it insightful.