Washington wildlife managers are offering landowners in San Juan and Island Counties up to $1,000 to allow hunters onto their property this fall, part of a bid to also reduce North Sound islands’ large blacktail population and help out other native flora and fauna.
With no predators outside of the occasional one that swims over, little public land and few local hunters, “deer are overbrowsing native vegetation, which means less habitat for other species,” according to district wildlife biologist Ruth Milner.
Of particular concern is the Island marble butterfly, once believed to be extinct but which depend on mustard flowers for key parts of its lifecycle. According to WDFW, deer also like to munch on the plant when other browse is unavailable.
So the state agency is calling on people with at least 5 acres to get in touch with state private lands access manager Rob Wingard (360-466-4345, ext. 240; Robert.Wingard@dfw.wa.gov) to learn if their land might qualify.
The offer includes Whidbey, Camano, Orcas, San Juan, Lopez, Shaw, Blakely and the rest of the islands in the two counties.
Unless you own land or have an in with someone who does, there are only very scattered parcels of public or semi-public land to hunt here.
Unfortunately, when nearly 1,800 acres on Orcas Island’s Turtleback Mountain were acquired more than 10 years ago, organizations involved in the purchase decided to bar hunting there.
Funds for WDFW’s offer come from the U.S. Farm Bill and are unfortunately only available for this fall’s season.
The agency says that owners can specify the number of hunters who can access their property, as well as when and where, but wouldn’t be able to pick and choose who could or couldn’t come on.
They would be protected from liability and be able to coordinate with the agency to get the best fit between their land and hunters.
“It is a win-win-win for the islands,” said Wingard in a press release. “If a property meets the criteria for a safe and productive hunt, we can work together with landowners to help native species, reduce islanders’ problems with deer and traffic hazards, and provide a unique experience for hunters seeking new places to find plentiful deer.”