Looking to volunteer for the Puffin And Petrel Patrol that gets you up close with the Atlantic Puffin? Join others on this incredible one of a kind experience that does good. Want to learn how you can become a volunteer? Brace your sense of smell because this is the way onward to become part of the puffin colony for a short while.
The is a volunteer initiative that started in 2004 in Witless Bay, Newfoundland. The program was initiated by Juergen and Elfie Schau of Germany, who noticed young puffins, also known as pufflings, stranded along the roadside. They recruited local community members to aid in the rescue of these stranded birds, and the program has since grown significantly.
The Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, where the program operates, is home to North America’s largest colony of Atlantic Puffins and a significant number of Leach’s Storm-Petrels, with over 600,000 mating pairs combined. Both species are globally listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List due to drastic global population declines.
The program has rescued thousands of Atlantic Puffin and Leach’s Storm-Petrel chicks since its inception. The chicks often become disoriented by artificial light, mistaking it for the moon and stars, which they use to guide them towards the ocean. Instead, they end up stranded in roadways and parking lots.
Volunteers patrol every night after dark between 8:30 and 12:30, searching for stranded seabirds. The birds are then weighed, tagged, and released the next morning either on a public beach or from a boat. The program typically runs for the month of August, but the exact timing can vary depending on the needs of the birds.
The program has grown to include hundreds of volunteers from around the world. In 2017, about 300 volunteers helped save 730 puffins and several hundred petrels.
By 2021, the program had to temporarily stop accepting new volunteers due to the overwhelming response.
The Puffin and Petrel Patrol Program is facilitated by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), which partnered with the Schaus in 2011 to expand the program. CPAWS also works with local businesses, such as whale watching companies, to support the program.
The program also includes public puffin releases, which take place on O’Brien’s Boat Tours. Reservations are required for the tour, and while guests can observe the release, they do not handle the puffins during the process.
The Puffin and Petrel Patrol Program is a significant conservation effort that not only helps protect vulnerable bird species but also educates the public about the impact of light pollution on wildlife.