Each year hundreds of thousands of Northern Fur Seals (Callorhinus ursinus) return to their haul-outs in the Pribilof Islands to breed, give birth, and teach their pups to hunt, swim and survive in the Bering Sea. It was fur seals that brought the first inhabitants to the Pribilof Islands. In 1786, Russian Promyshlenniki (fur hunters) brought Aleut slaves to act as guides and fur hunters. The descendents of these seals and these Aleut hunters still inhabit St. George today. The Russians established permanent fur sealing colonies, which prospered until 1867, when Alaska was purchased by the United States. U.S. commercial fur sealing operations continued until 1983. Despite a reduction in harvest, the population of fur seals has declined. Local residents are engaged with federal wildlife managers in an effort to protect and restore the fur seal population. At the various rookeries around the island, visitors can listen and watch as the large and ferocious “beach masters” defend their harems and their territory. After the pups have been born, the rookeries are filled with their lamb-like calls. It is an amazing experience to view these threatened sea mammals from such a close vantage point. Steller Sea Lions (Eumetopias jubatus) are also found on the island, but in much lower numbers. Local guides can help you find the best viewing places for fur seals or sea lions.
Click HERE for more information about the old fur seal plant on St. George Island (PDF File (1.2 MB)).
For more information about St. George Island, please visit Starting Your Adventure or e-mail our local Tourism Coordinator.