Tag Archives: orcas island

$1,000 On Offer For North Sound Island Land Owners To Allow Hunting

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.

HUNTERS WITHOUT LAND, RELATIVES OR INS WITH LOCAL PROPERTIES OWNERS HAVE A HARD TIME FINDING ACCESS TO HUNT BLACKTAIL DEER IN SAN JUAN AND ISLAND COUNTIES, BUT A WDFW OFFER OF UP TO $1,000 FOR LANDOWNERS WITH 5 ACRES OR MORE AIMS TO MAKE MORE AVAILABLE. JD LUNDQUIST TOOK THIS BUCK ON THE FAMILY HOMESTEAD ON ORCAS ISLAND A COUPLE SEASONS BACK. (HUNTING PHOTO CONTEST)

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.

A WDFW-PROVIDED IMAGE SHOWS AN ISLAND MARBLE BUTTERFLY ON A YELLOW MUSTARD PLANT, WHICH THE INSECT LAYS ITS EGGS ON AND THE LARVAE FEED ON AFTER HATCHING. (WDFW)

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.

A BLACKTAIL DOE STOPS BY THE WALGAMOTT-ECKSTEIN CAMP AT SPRAWLING MORAN STATE PARK ON ORCAS ISLAND, THE SINGLE LARGEST LANDHOLDING IN THE ARCHIPELAGO WHERE DEER ARE ALSO SMALLER THAN THEIR MAINLAND COUSINS . (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

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.

A HIKER LOOKS OVER A BALD, PART OF A PRESERVE IN THE SAN JUANS THAT ALLOWS HUNTING. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

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.”

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Orcas Island Elk On The Move

Those two bull elk we reported on Orcas Island yesterday?

Yeah, they’re probably over on Cypress or Sinclair or Lopez or Blakely or Obstruction or Lummi or Vendovi or Guemes or Decatur Island by now.

(ELIZABETH MARCUM)

After Thursday morning’s sighting on Orcas near the golf course between the ferry dock and village of Eastsound, around 10 a.m. today the duo were spotted about 5 air miles to the southeast and across East Sound, near Obstruction Pass by resident Uncle John Willis.

“Well, this morning I planned on going to town, but chose not to do that. I looked out my window at my sister’s house and here are two bull elk eating leaves off of a filbert tree in front of her house,” he told us.

“They were two good, healthy-looking bulls. I was not quite ready to see two elk this morning,” Willis added.

“To see a couple of bull elk was beyond my wildest expectations,” the longtime Orcas Island resident said.

Still, through the island grapevine he’d heard of yesterday’s sightings.

Willis said his first thought was, “I need to find a camera or they’ll all think I’m crazy.”

So he and a friend with a camera went looking for them on the property.

He wasn’t quite sure how they had arrived at the family farm near Deer Point.

“This whole thing is so crazy. To get here they  must have swam. They couldn’t get a reservation on the ferry, I don’t think,” Willis said

Indeed, it is likely that the elk jumped in the water, but from where is a darn good question.

Two bulls were spotted on Salt Spring Island, on the Vancouver Island side of the San Juans, earlier this spring, but an elk on Whidbey Island swam over from the Skagit Valley a couple years ago too.

THERE, ON THE 1886 FARMSTEAD AND BETWEEN AUNT MARY’S CHICKEN COOP, GRASS-FED ANGUS CATTLE AND MT CONSTITUTION IN THE FOG IS ONE OF THE ELK. ( ELIZABETH MARCUM)

Before this, Willis says the biggest wildlife event on Orcas might have been the bear that swam over last year.

The bruin was spotted on Obstruction Pass Road at the exact same spot as the elk was photographed above.

“Anyway, it’s been a crazy day for me,” Willis added.

 

Elk Photographed On Orcas Island

UPDATE: 1:10 P.M., JUNE 29, 2018: The bulls were spotted around 10 this morning, 5 miles to the southeast outside Olga.

First an elk turned up on Whidbey Island and now it sounds like two more have swam across to Orcas Island.

A pair of bulls were spotted this morning in a resident’s yard near the golf course between Orcas and Eastsound.

“Yep, that’s an elk,” confirmed WDFW wildlife biologist Ruth Milner in La Conner.

A SCREEN SHOT OFF THE ORCAS ISLAND GOLF COURSE’S FACEBOOK PAGE SHOWS WHAT APPEARS TO BE A BULL ELK. (FACEBOOK)

“They were in our yard, the dog went nuts at 5:20 a.m. when he saw them,” resident Kyle Freeman told The Islands’ Sounder.

“Never heard of elk on Orcas,” the Orcas Island Golf Course posted on Facebook.

Maybe not, but animals swimming from the mainland out to the dozens of islands throughout the Salish Sea is not unheard of.

“We had a bear on Orcas last year, a cougar on Vashon, the most beautiful bull elk you’ve ever seen on Whidbey,” notes Milner.

It’s possible that the Orcas duo ended up there for reasons similar to how the Oak Harbor-area bull took up residence there.

“The Whidbey elk was seen down in the (Skagit) valley with a band of cows and we think someone booted him and he took off west instead of east, and that’s probably what happened here,” Milner says.

It’s possible that the duo is the same pair that turned up on the southeast end of British Columbia’s Salt Spring Island, to the northwest of Orcas, in early April.

The history of wapiti on islands in Washington’s sheltered inland sea is “pretty vague,” Milner says, but before European settlement, some animals probably occurred on them.

Where those bulls may have been driven away by more dominant ones, she says that a researcher found rutty island blacktail bucks swimming back and forth through the archipelago in search of does.

“Collared bucks from Blakely leave the island and then come back,” she says.

“They do things we wouldn’t,” Milner notes.

While deer hunting in the islands is open, with second tags available for many, elk are off limits as there are no seasons on Orcas, Whidbey or elsewhere.

As for the Orcas bulls, it sounds like they may be happy where they’re at, at least for the moment.

“They did not appear to be in a hurry to head in any direction,” Freeman told the Sounder. “When I went outside they walked slowly into the tall grass and disappeared into the woods.”