This is a widespread species and, similar to the other Antarctic seals that inhabit the pack ice, population assessments are very difficult and expensive to conduct and therefore infrequently undertaken. Published global population estimates range from 100,000-300,000 (Scheffer 1958) up to 220,000-440,000 animals (Laws 1984). However, early estimates were based on very limited sampling and were highly speculative. The most recent global estimate, from analysis of ship and aerial sighting surveys carried out around the continent between 1968 and 1983, provided a point estimate for global leopard seal population size in the pelagic pack ice of the Southern Ocean of 300,000 animals (Erickson and Hanson 1990). This estimate is likely to have considerable uncertainty associated with it, and only very large changes in leopard seal population size could be confidently detected from repeated surveys (Southwell et al. In Press).
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