About the Refuge

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In breeding season each cranny of Protection Island harbors hopeful parents and their clutch of eggs. From rhinoceros auklets in the bluffs to eagles on the treetops, the Island bursts with new life.

An Island Paradise

Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge provides some of the last remaining undeveloped habitat for many burrow-nesting seabirds in the Salish Sea, but is of particular importance to the rhinoceros auklet. Scarred by over a hundred years of farming and grazing, strafed by practice artillery fire during World War II, and carved up for a summer home subdivision in the late 1960’s, its natural significance was finally recognized in 1982 with a National Wildlife Refuge designation before irreversible damage occurred. Today the Island thrums with life as it continues to recover. It supports thriving wildlife populations, including what is thought to be the third largest rhinoceros auklet colony in North America, a nesting pair of bald eagles, one of the last two breeding sites for tufted puffins in the Salish Sea, the largest glaucous-winged gull colony in Washington state, and the first location in Washington where northern elephant seals were observed to come ashore and give birth.

In order to protect this fragile habitat the Refuge is closed to visitation. Visitors may view the island by boat, but a 200 yard off-shore buffer is enforced to ensure adult birds are not flushed from their nests.