Sea Wolf Island National Wildlife Area

Sea Wolf Island National Wildlife Area (NWA), locally referred to as Margaree Island, is located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, 4 kilometers (km) off the coast of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.


Margaree Island is a sandstone bedrock formation. The Island is shaped like a whale's back with the highest point of its "hump" about 50 meters above the surrounding sea. The cliffs range from 5-10 meters at the southern end. The highest points are located along the northwest side and reach nearly 30 meters. As such, the island has no protective cove or points of easy access.

Margaree Island. Photo: Colin Mackinnon

The water surrounding the island supports a wealth of migratory birds. Over forty species of birds and seventy plant species have been recorded on Sea Wolf Island NWA . Colonial birds breeding at the NWA include:

  • great cormorant
  • great blue heron
  • great black-backed gull
  • herring gull
  • black guillemot
  • bald eagle (one pair)
Great blue heron

The vegetation of this small exposed island consists of dense white spruce stands on the lee side, low crowberry and creeping juniper at southwest portion. A shrub-grass cover with stunted white spruce occupies the windward side and north tip.

The great cormorant colony, consisting of upwards of 100 pairs, is significant since there are few colonies of these species known to occur in the region. Northern gannet and common loon are regularly observed around the island. In addition to the many bird species that make use of Margaree Island a variety of mammals occur on the island and frequent surrounding waters such as:

  • snowshoe hare
  • coyote
  • red fox
  • grey seal
  • mink whale
  • fin whale

More information on Sea Wolf Island NWA is provided in the summary table below.


Under the Canada Wildlife Act, NWAs are protected and managed in accordance with the Wildlife Area Regulations. The primary purpose of NWAs is to protect and conserve wildlife and their habitat. For this purpose and according to the legislation, all activities in a NWA that could interfere with the conservation of wildlife can be prohibited. Consequently, most NWAs are not accessible to the public and all activities are prohibited. However, some activities may be authorized through public notice or the issuance of permits as long as they are consistent with the management plan goals for the NWA. For more information, consult the NWAs Management and Activities section.

Access to Sea Wolf Island NWA is not restricted and activities may be permitted in accordance with the conservation objectives of the NWA management plan. Public notices listing the authorized activities within the wildlife area are posted at the main access point below the Canadian Wildlife Service cabin. Public visitation is not encouraged, since colonial nesting birds are susceptible to human disturbance, although the activities permitted are:

  • hiking
  • wildlife observation
  • recreational hunting (subject to provincial and federal regulation)

However, these activities may be subject to change at any time if deemed necessary. To protect nesting birds, and for safety reasons, cliff climbing is not permitted.

More information on access and permitting for Sea Wolf Island NWA, can be obtained by contacting the Environment and Climate Change Canada regional office.

Map of the Area

Map of Sea Wolf Island NWA
Long description

Map of the area surrounding Margaree Island (Sea Wolf Island) off of the coast of Nova Scotia in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The boundaries of Sea Wolf Island NWA are indicated. The protected area covers the majority of Margaree Island (also known as Sea Wolf Island) and is north-west of Rear Dunvegan. The scale on the map is in kms. Permanent water, roads and highways are indicated on the map. A small inset national map situates the NWA in Canada.

This map is for illustrative purposes only and should not be used to define legal boundaries.

Summary table

Summary table
Category Information
Protected Area designation NWA
Province/Territory Nova Scotia
Latitude/Longitude 46°22' North / 61°16' West
Size 76 ha
Reason for creation of protected area Protection of colonial nest bird colonies.
Date created (Gazetted) 1982 - Legal description
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category Strict Nature Reserve (Ia)
Additional designations None
Keystone or flagship species
Main habitat type
  • Shrub and Grass (78.3%)
  • Forest (21.7%)
Listed Species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) None recorded
Invasive Species None recorded
Additional Links Birds: Mammals:
Main threats and challenges Ecotourism pressures.
Management Agency Environment and Climate Change Canada (Canadian Wildlife Services)
Public access and usage

The following activities are permitted but subject to change at any time if deemed necessary:

  • hiking
  • wildlife observation
  • hunting

Note: If there is a discrepancy between the information presented on this web page and any notice posted at the NWA site, the notice prevails as it is the legal instrument authorizing the activity.

Contact us

Environment and Climate Change Canada - Atlantic Region
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas and Stewardship
17 Waterfowl Lane
Sackville NB E4L 4N1

Toll-Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)

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