PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — 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. Continued...