Haida Gwaii, British Columbia
Skincuttle Inlet is located within Haida Gwaii, just to the east of Moresby Island and south of Burnaby Island. Within the inlet, a chain of islands extends in an easterly direction from the sheltered water at the south end of Burnaby Island to the open exposed waters of Hecate Strait. These low lying islands, which include Bolkus, Rock, Skincuttle, George, Jeffrey, East Copper, and other small unnamed islets, are characterized by rocky shorelines with occasional "pocket" beaches. They are forested with a typical mix of Sitka Spruce, Western Red-cedar, and Western Hemlock. At some locations there are extensive areas of young growth where windfalls have occurred. The ground cover on the larger islands is composed primarily of moss and bare litter, with scattered patches of elderberry, huckleberry and salmonberry being interspersed, and some areas of thick salal being present along the exposed shorelines.
Both Ancient Murrelets and Cassin's Auklets are present at this site in globally significant numbers. Surveys conducted in the mid-1980s yielded an estimate of 29,100 pairs of Ancient Murrelets (as much as 5.8% of the estimated global and 11% of the estimated national population), that nested primarily on George and Bolkus Islands. A more recent survey of George Island (1996) resulted in an even higher population estimate for the Ancient Murrelet colony. The Skincuttle Inlet Islands also supports 26,560 pairs of Cassin's Auklets (about 1.5% of the estimated global, and almost 2% of the estimated Canadian population) with the highest nesting concentrations occurring on East Copper Island.
Four additional species of birds are present in nationally significant numbers: Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels (at least 2.5% of the estimated national population); Leach's Storm-Petrels (at least 2.2% of the Canadian eastern Pacific population); Black Oystercatchers (about 2.6% of the national population); and Pigeon Guillemots (over 1% of the estimated national population). Other seabirds nesting in the area include Glaucous-winged Gulls (252 pairs), whose numbers approach that of national significance, and Rhinoceros Auklets. Bald Eagles nest on most of the islands and Peregrine Falcons (ssp. pealei) are recorded in the area. The waters of Skincuttle Inlet, particularly on the south side of the island chain and extending eastwards into Hecate Strait, is an area of particular importance to Ancient Murrelets as a staging area during the breeding season.
The greatest threat to the seabird colonies is the spread of introduced predators (raccoons) from nearby Moresby Island. As recently as 1960, two small islets near the head of the inlet (Sea Pigeon and Boulder Islands) supported small but thriving Ancient Murrelet colonies. By 1971, however, these colonies no longer existed, most likely due to depredation following the arrival of raccoons from the adjacent mainland shores of Moresby Island. By 1985 raccoons had become abundant on both islets. Additional threats to the nesting seabirds are from potential oil spills, and possible disturbance from boaters and other visitors to Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve. The storm-petrel colonies on Rock and Skincuttle Islands are particularly sensitive to human intrusion.IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status