oceans | gray seal birth
oceans: gray seal birth
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. The 300 pound females have one pup per year, with the peak of births in mid January. At birth, the compelling pups are dressed in a suit of thick, white fur (lanugo) which they begin molting at about three weeks of age.
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. From May through August, the seabirds can be viewed on live cameras operated by explore.org.
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.
location: Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge, Maine
best hours: 8:00am - 4:30pm
time zone: Eastern Standard Time
|links:||Project Puffin and Adopt-A-Puffin|
|Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge|
|Northeast Fisheries Science Center|
See the birth of a baby gray seal! Seal Island, 22 miles off the coast of Maine, is home to the second largest colony of gray seals in North America.