Sixty years ago Herron Island was billed as offering some of the “finest deer hunting … anywhere,” but these days the settled Deep South Sound isle is attracting attention for a resident’s viral blacktail video.
The 11-second-long Twitter post made yesterday showing nearly a dozen deer chowing down around a table has been viewed over 202,000 times as of midafternoon, been retweeted 2,800 times and liked 14,800.
Just not by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“This is definitely not ok!” agency social media monitors posted on the thread. “While we appreciate the sentiment, please remember it is never ok to feed wild animals. We cannot teach animals to rely on humans for survival.”
The video was taken by @Herronisland, who describes herself as a “Female retired attorney, kayaker, walker, pescatarian, reader, tv-watcher” who lives on the 286-acre island located between Hartstine Island and the Key Peninsula north of Olympia.
“I feed the deer in front of my garage every morning. I’ve posted about this before. Sometimes there are as many as 20. Today, just a few,” she tweeted Sunday.
Most comments are supportive and in responding to them, the woman says that the feed consists of mostly alfalfa that she buys around $100 worth of a month, and that no hunting is allowed on the island.
It was a different story back in 1951, when William Sehmel bought Herron for $100,000 and logged much of it over the following years, as well as enjoyed pursuing its blacktails.
“We estimated there were 60 or 70 deer on the island when we started, and there were 60 or 70 when we sold it. And that doesn’t include the ones I shot!” he told the Key Pen News for a 2018 article.
He sold the island to a developer and it has been subdivided into hundreds of lots, many of which now have houses on them.
As much as we all care about wildlife, feeding is said to cause “more harm than good” for deer, potentially spreading disease, making for more aggressive bucks and does, or leading them to be more dependent on handouts.
Then there’s what else is attracted by all that free food.
I stopped putting out sunflower and other seeds out for my local tweety birds after rats started showing up, and I haven’t resumed. I’d argue I have just as many birds as before, and now also quite a bit fewer rodents.
In some areas state wildlife managers do need to feed big game herds, typically where their winter range has been subsumed by farming or development or they might come into contact with disease-bearing domestic animals.
“We feed in select cases for specific reasons,” WDFW vet. Dr. Kristin Mansfield said in a press release last winter. “But it’s neither effective nor desirable to feed wildlife on a broad scale.”
Nobody is probably speeding around Herron Island, but vehicle collisions in neighborhoods are one reason Bend, Oregon, is looking to ban deer and elk feeding in city limits. Instead of rats, the worry there is cougars and coyotes coming into town.
I’m just as guilty of this as the next person, but sometimes when we think we are doing good, we’re not really.