*Text taken from the online "Draft
Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Impact
Statement," dated April 2004, of the Petit Manan
National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
This 65-acre island is located in Vinalhaven, Knox County.
The U.S. Navy transferred Seal Island to the Service in 1972.
The island was used as a bombing target for the Navy from the
1940's to the early 1960's.
In 2002 there were 181 puffin pairs nesting on
Seal Island, thanks to puffin restoration efforts.
The habitat on Seal Island consists of 35 acres of grasslands
and 30 acres of rock ledge. This combination of habitats offers
prime seabird nesting sites, with boulder fields and ledges
for Atlantic puffins, razorbills, and black guillemots, grass
and ledge areas for terns, raspberry thickets for eiders, and
soft peat and glacial till soils for Leach's storm-petrels.
A vegetation study was conducted in 1985 by Rappaport and Wesley.
Seal Island was once home to the largest Atlantic puffin colony
in the Gulf of Maine. For over 200 years it was also a summer
campsite for fisherman harvesting herring, groundfish, and
lobster. The fishermen also used their nets to harvest the
nesting seabirds, which led to the demise of the colony by
1887. The island was eventually recolonized by cormorants,
gulls, and terns. However, by 1953 the growing gull population
had completely displaced all nesting terns.
In 1984, the National Audubon Society, Canadian Wildlife Service
and the Refuge began a seabird restoration project on the island.
In an effort to re-establish Seal Island as an Atlantic puffin
breeding colony, NAS translocated puffin chicks from Newfoundland
between 1984- 1989. The effort proved highly successful, and
for the first time in nearly 100 years, puffins successfully
bred on Seal Island in 1992. The puffin colony has continued
to grow and in 2002 the island supported 181 pairs of puffins
and one pair of razorbills.
Seal Island offers prime habitat for razorbills.
Only four other islands support nesting razorbills in the
state, so we are hopeful that additional razorbills will initiate
nesting on Seal Island. In conjunction with the puffin restoration
efforts, social attraction equipment (sound system and decoys)
was utilized to attract terns to the island. After six years
of effort, 20 pairs of Arctic and common terns nested on the
island in 1989. The colony has increased dramatically since
that time, with 1,057 pairs of Arctic terns and 1,582 pairs
of common terns nesting in 2002. Seal Island is now home to
the largest tern colony in Maine.
Leach's storm-petrel, black guillemot, common eider, great
cormorant, great black-backed and herring gulls also nest on
the island. The island is also only one of ten islands in Maine
that hosts nesting great cormorants. Small numbers of roseate
terns have also nested on the island in recent years.
We continue to work cooperatively with National Audubon Society
on the Seal Island seabird restoration project. Biological
technicians staff the island, conduct biological surveys (food
and productivity studies), annually census the island, control
predators, and band seabirds. Researchers are currently supporting
Arctic tern and Atlantic puffin research projects in cooperation
with the University of New Brunswick. Annual survey and study
results are available upon request at Refuge Complex Headquarters.
Table 3-21 presents the nesting seabirds known on the island.
In 2000, Seal Island was recognized as the largest gray seal
pupping island in Maine. In 1999, winter flights were conducted
to count seals, and they estimated 400 adults and 150-200 pups
were on the island (Gilbert, Univ of Maine, 1999). The island
is also used by harbor seals as a pupping island.
Raptor surveys were conducted in 1997 and 1998 (Drury 1997,
and Drury and Goodhue 1998). The island is considered an important
foraging area for migrating peregrine falcons and other raptors.
The island is closed to public access year round due to the
presence of unexploded ordnance. Information signs alerting
visitors to the closure are in place.