Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge is a 65 acre sanctuary managed in collaboration with the Audubon Seabird Restoration Program (Project Puffin), which operates a summer field station here. The program has successfully restored Maine’s largest colonies of Atlantic Puffins and Common and Arctic Terns. It also has done a thing or two for gray seals.
During the shortest days of the year, hundreds of gray seals clamber onto Seal Island for an extraordinary mass breeding event. At this second largest of just four U.S. colonies, the seals come ashore for just a few weeks to give birth and feed their pups.
For over 200 years Seal Island was also a summer campsite for fishermen harvesting herring, cod, lobster. Excessive seabird hunting for food and feathers led to the loss of the puffin colony here. From the 1940s to 1960s the Navy used the island as a bombing target. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acquired the island in 1972. The island is closed to public landing because of the unexploded ordnance and unique wildlife. Today, seals face new threats including entanglement in fishing gear, chemical and plastic pollution and illegal hunting. They are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.
In the Northwest Atlantic, gray seals give birth Dec. – Feb., which is when our Gray Seal Pupping Cam will go live for the breeding “event.” Until then, peruse the photo album and get a look at Seal Island from above.
Below is a clip of Seals Mating on Seal Island: