Bearded seals are members of the "true seal" family, Phocidae. They have a small head, large body, and small, square foreflippers. They have a short snout with thick, long white whiskers, which gives this species their "bearded" name. Their coat is dark brown or gray with dark rings and spots.
Bearded seals grow to lengths of about 7-8 ft (2.0-2.5 m) and weigh about 575-800 lbs (260-360 kg), with females being slightly larger than males.
Bearded seals reside in arctic waters and are commonly found with drifting sea ice. They inhabit waters less than 650 ft (200 m) deep.
Bearded seals are found in the Northern Hemisphere with a circumpolar distribution that does not extend farther north than 80°N.
There is one stock of bearded seals in U.S. waters: the Alaska stock. Early estimates of population size of the Alaska stock range from 250,000 to 300,000 animals. Current abundance and population trends of the U.S. stock are unknown.