Camera streams video of birthing gray seals

PORTLAND, Maine — A camera that records seal-pupping activities on a remote Maine island began streaming live to the public Thursday in what’s believed to be the first live-streaming camera at an East Coast seal-pupping site.

Similar high-definition cameras have been set up around the world in recent years to capture the activities of eagles, polar bears, loons, black bears and other animals. The camera on Seal Island, about 20 miles off the midcoast of Maine, provides views of gray seals that migrate to the island each year to give birth.

It’s expensive and difficult for scientists to visit gray seal-pupping grounds because they are on islands, with the births taking place in the winter when ocean conditions can be inhospitable.

Seal Island’s tower-mounted camera gives scientists a firsthand look into the progression of seal-pupping season so they can gather information such as when peak pupping occurs and how long it takes seal pups to molt, said Stephanie Wood, a biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

It also allows the public to watch “nature in action,” she said.

The 65-acre island is owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and managed in cooperation with the National Audubon Society. Audubon, in conjunction with explore.org, set up two cameras on the island last spring to stream live video of clown-like Atlantic puffins that make the island their home each summer.

With the puffins gone for the season, Audubon offered to let NOAA keep one of the cameras on the island to record the gray seals that swim there each fall.

Seal Island is the second-largest pupping ground for gray seals in the U.S., with more than 500 living there during the six-week season from December into early February. (Muskeget Island off southern Massachusetts has the largest breeding colony.)

The project is funded by explore.org, a philanthropic organization in Santa Monica, Calif., and a division of the Annenberg Foundation, with the aim of connecting people to nature. The video can be seen on explore.org’s website.

“With the new seal pupping cam, we are helping people escape the urban squalor and, if only for a moment, reconnect with nature in its purest state,” said Charlie Annenberg, founder of explore.org.

Wood and explore.org say they don’t know of any other camera that streams live video of gray seals giving birth. Gordon Waring, who heads the seal research program at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Mass., said he’s not aware of any cameras either, but that it’s possible they might be used in other countries.

Scientists and explore.org producers can operate the camera remotely — tilting it, moving it side to side and zooming in and out — to get better views of the 300-pound mother seals and the newborn pups that are covered in thick, white fur. The camera also provides shots of seals quarreling among themselves and interacting with bald eagles.

The camera also will allow biologists to identify adult seals that have been tagged or branded elsewhere and learn more about their movements and life history, Wood said.

More in Local News

If vehicles crash and tumble, rescuers want to be ready

The Puyallup Extrication Team practiced with other fire departments on cars, SUVs and even buses.

Man arrested after stolen car crashes in Everett

The accident occurred in the 100 block of SE Everett Mall Way.

5-vehicle crash in Arlington kills 62-year-old woman

Medics had transported her to the hospital, where she later died.

2 men hospitalized after rollover collision on U.S. 2

Two men were taken to the hospital with minor injuries… Continue reading

Marysville police serve a warrant — across the street from HQ

A man who fled was taken into custody. Police were serving a warrant for alleged drug-related crimes.

Marysville man charged with stabbing wife who sought divorce

Nathan Bradford, 45, found divorce papers while going through the woman’s car.

Man on ferry accuses child of theft, allegedly pulls knife

The man was arrested, no one was hurt, and the ferry was delayed 30 minutes on its way to Mukilteo.

Coming together as family

Special-needs students and teachers at the Transition Center cooked up a Thanksgiving feast.

Front Porch

EVENTS Snohomish man’s legacy The life and legacy of William Shelton, the… Continue reading

Most Read