RICHMOND — Attendees of an early morning wildlife tour Saturday on Swan Island practiced safe social distancing during their trip. But, unfortunately, so did the animals.

The half-dozen attendees, all wearing masks, only got a good look at a group of turkeys during the two-hour tour running along Perkins Highway, the only road on the island.

Despite a low animal turnout, all of the attendees said they would be back to visit the island again.

Swan Island, in the middle of the Kennebec River between Dresden and Richmond, is often confused with Swan’s Island, which is east of Stonington. Some maps identify Swan Island as the “Unorganized Territory of Perkins.” Perkins is the former name of the township originally founded on the island.

A pickup truck slowly towed a long, open-air trailer up and down the four-and-a-half-mile road, giving tour-goers a chance to snap pictures of the panoramic views of the island.

Dresden residents Heidi and Jeff Hostelley, who moved to Maine four years ago from Cleveland, Ohio, said this was the first time they’ve been to Swan Island.

Heidi Hostelley said she’s spent more time outside than usual during the pandemic, especially around the house and at Dresden’s Green Point Wildlife Management Area.

“Not so much going places, but much more (time spent) in our yard and close by,” she said.

Jennifer Crawford, also of Dresden, said it was also her first time on the island. Crawford, a nature photographer, said she saw the event on Facebook and was hoping to snap some wildlife photos.

“I’ve been wanting to come out here for a while now just to see what it’s like,” she said.

Anne Marie Ames of Chelsea attended the tour with her daughter, Anastasia, 16. The Ameses said they usually spend a good deal of time outside, but the pandemic has made them opt for more outdoor activities in the last few months.

“We’ve been doing a lot of hiking,” Anastasia Ames said.

“We do a lot of hiking with our greyhounds,” Anne Marie Ames said.

Heidi and Jeff Hostelly take photos from the trailer Saturday during a tour of Swan Island in the Kennebec River between Richmond and Dresden. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Noticeably absent from the tour was the island’s robust population of deer. Tour guide Emerald Wright said the population of deer is estimated at 60 to 100 per mile on the roughly three-square-mile island. Wright said most of the island’s deer are fairly small due to a lack of abundant food. She said a 1-year-old buck found on the island was only 75 pounds, when it should be about 100 pounds.

Assistant regional biologist John Pratte said the deer population could be helped by some blown down forest, which leads to easily accessible new growth for the deer to eat.

“The population is self-limiting,” he said, adding that less than 50% of the island’s does had fawns in years past. “Now, we have some twins and some triplets.”

Pratte said the island’s visitation and revenue has been cut in half due to the pandemic. Despite family groups and weekend usage remaining high, the island is not being visited by summer camps and other large groups.

“It’s been slow during the week,” he said.

Pratte said there are usually two or three wildlife tours each year, with some being held at night. He said the tours typically feature deer, turkeys and eagles, but lucky attendees can see coyotes.

Pratte said the island has been holding the same amount of events as normal, but with smaller numbers to fit within gathering limits. Recently, island staff have been free holding hunting workshops.

At the end of the tour, guide Colin Tardiff distributed free day passes so tour-goers could get another shot at seeing more wildlife another day.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.