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Green Bay
National Wildlife Refuge

herring gull

Door County, WI   
E-mail: greenbayrefuge@fws.gov
Phone Number: 920-387-2658
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
Herring gulls nest on Hog Island. (Photo by J.A. Spendelow)
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Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge consists of Hog Island (2 Acres), Plum Island (325 Acres), and Pilot Island (3.7 Acres). The islands are located in Lake Michigan, near Washington Island, off the tip of Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula. Hog Island was set aside by Executive Order in 1913 as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds. Plum and Pilot Island were transferred from the U.S. Coast Guard to the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2007. The islands were acquired to protect native bird habitat and endangered species habitat in the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem. The refuge is managed by staff at Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, in Mayville, WI.

Hog Island supports a nesting colony of herring gulls and a few nesting great blue herons and red-breasted mergansers. No development has occurred on Hog Island due to its small size, remoteness, and landing difficulties.

Portions of Plum and Pilot Islands were developed to serve as lighthouse facilities or life saving stations during the late 19th century. Plum Island essentially functions as a small ecosystem and retains natural qualities absent on the nearby mainland. Today Pilot Island supports nesting colonies of double-crested cormorants, and herring gulls. A handful of great blue and black-crowned night herons also nest on Pilot Island.

All public use is prohibited on Hog and Pilot Islands due to ground nesting by migratory birds and the limited and treacherous access. Plum Island may offer public use opportunities in the future provided they are compatible with the refuge’s purpose and mission.

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Wildlife and Habitat

At one time Hog and Pilot Islands were forested. However, since the 1970s, many of the trees have died and fallen over, due to nesting activities of double-crested cormorants, herring gulls, and herons.

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The limestone and dolomite rocks that make up the base of these islands formed from compacted sediments of marine life that were deposited over 500 million years ago when the area was covered by an ancient ocean.

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Public use is not permitted to ensure necessary protection of ground nesting by migratory birds.

Recreation and Education Opportunities
Environmental Education
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Management Activities
Management activities, including monitoring and controlling non-native invasive species, are conducted on the islands. Research activities have been ongoing for several decades and include sampling red-breasted merganser eggs, nestlings, juveniles, and adults for various toxic chemicals.