Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. puffin patrol rescues chicks

Puffin chicks on Newfoundland and Labrador's Avalon Peninsula in danger of having their young lives cut short are getting a little help from the Puffin Patrol.

Puffin chicks on Newfoundland and Labrador's Avalon Peninsula in danger of having their young lives cut short are getting a little help from the Puffin Patrol.

Puffins, small birds that breed mostly along the province's coastline, only give birth to one egg per year—generally during the summer months. 

Three to four weeks after they're born, parents kick their young out of the nest, forcing them to fend for themselves.  Many young puffins get lost and end up in nearby towns.

That's where Juergen Schau's Puffin Patrol comes in.

For the past five years, Schau and his team of volunteers have patrolled the streets of Witless Bay and Bay Bulls rescuing lost puffins chicks. He said the baby birds just need a bit of help, especially on cloudy or foggy nights, when man-made light can throw everything off.

"The animals have some problems. They're saying, 'oh look at the street or the car, it must be the moon!' Or maybe, advertising of the Needs store or the Petro station, gas station, 'Wonderful, my moon!' and then they fly to this, because they can't see, they are nocturnal," said Schau. "Then [the] unfortunate happens, they get killed by the road."

Between mid-August and late September, Schau and the Puffin Patrol, which includes young children from the community and their parents, head out as soon as it gets dark.

"They have gloves, they have a flashlights and they do have a net and then we try to catch them.  Then we store them in my garage overnight, because you can't release them in the night because then they go back to the light," explains Schau. "The next morning when the daylight is there, then we give them the first day in their life and it's wonderful."

Schau said Newfoundland and Labrador is home to the largest puffin colony in the world, with most of those birds calling the shores around Witless Bay home.  He said the patrol has saved just over fifty puffins so far this summer.

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