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Living with Wildlife

The goal of this project is to create a robust Living with Wildlife program combining outreach, community empowerment, and hands-on science to address Vashon-Maury Island’s unique challenges. We wish to empower residents to handle the presence of wildlife (in particular, large carnivores) and keep our rich marine resources safe from overharvest. Vashon-Maury Island is a perfect storm for many Living with Wildlife issues—from large carnivore management to marine shoreline overharvest.

Cougar caught on camera trap in 2017, Vashon Island.

Colvos Passage, along the western shore of Vashon, is a short swim from the Kitsap Peninsula for large predators. With increased development on Kitsap, we have experienced more frequent migrations of coyote, bear, and cougar. Despite historic evidence to the contrary, many islanders are adamant that the island should be naturally free and “safe” from predators. In addition, Vashon attracts urban-dwellers who appreciate nature but have little understanding of local wildlife and habitats, as well as hobby farmers who are unprepared to protect livestock from predators. This has led to high levels of conflict and a fear of predators that resulted in the death of a cougar here last year. Currently, rumors are circulating that another cougar has made the swim to the island.

Vashon contains more than half of the undeveloped shoreline in King County. Islanders and visitors fish salmon and squid from our public dock, set crab pots, or dig for shellfish. Because we have no bridge, there is little to no wildlife management presence on Vashon. We have become known region-wide as a black hole for harvest-limit enforcement and we are more frequently receiving reports about commercial-scale illegal overharvesting. As coordinators of the Citizen Stewardship Committee for Maury Island State Aquatic Reserve, we have learned of increasingly large-scale illegal overharvesting in the reserve. WDFW busted a large squid poaching ring last winter, and residents reported a beach sweep of shellfish, including geoduck, from Raab’s Lagoon Natural Area last summer. Management agencies were unable to respond quickly enough to apprehend offenders. These examples show that time is of the essence to ramp up a local Living with Wildlife program.

This project will use a recent audit of our existing large carnivore program and incorporate suggestions from the Citizen Stewardship Committee on overharvesting to build a more robust and effective Living with Wildlife program. We plan to:

  • Revamp our large carnivore outreach pamphlets and create one for shellfish overharvest
  • Use blog posts to address immediate concerns
  • Develop a script for fielding telephone calls and emails
  • Advocate for improved response times with government agencies
  • Increase Facebook membership and Instagram followers
  • Coordinate with local nature organizations and management wildlife agencies to host a series of three talks on Living with Wildlife
  • Hold Living with Wildlife community focus groups with management agencies and traditional island first-responder groups (i.e. other environmental organizations, fire department, vets, police, animal control, pet and feed supply owners, outdoor retailers, eco-tourist businesses, farmers) to nurture informed community leaders who will help educate residents and respond to wildlife issues in an appropriate and coordinated manner
  • Continue coyote DNA research and better organize and share WildCam Network findings to create a cadre of educated ambassadors who will speak for carnivores
  • Learn more about our carnivores’ habits, populations, and needs
  • More seamlessly pass this information on to the wider public and management agencies