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Hunt at Island Center Forest planned for this fall
After holding a controversial, 17-day hunting season at Island Center Forest last year, King County, calling the season a success, plans to continue short hunting seasons at the county-owned forest on a trial basis. A comment period on the proposal will run until Aug. 29.
This year’s season would take place for 19 days, from Oct. 13 to 31, during which time the popular forest would be closed to all other uses. The county has also proposed continuing trial hunting seasons for up to four more years after that.
David Kimmett, a natural lands manager for the county’s Department of Natural Resources and Parks, said the county will continue to monitor how many people hunt at the forest, where they are from and how many deer are taken, as well as gather feedback from hunters and the public, before making the hunt an annually sanctioned event.
“We decided we want to continue to treat it as a pilot project and learn from it before we make any final, long-term decisions,” Kimmett said.
He said last October’s hunting season went well — more than 60 hunters voluntarily registered at the forest and most seemed cooperative and well-informed. At least eight deer were killed, and there were no accidents or major complaints. Even non-hunters who came to use the forest, he said, didn’t complain about being turned away.
“We feel like that’s encouraging,” he said. “We think it was a success.”
Doug Williams, a spokesman for the county’s department of Natural Resources and Parks, said the county will take feedback on its plan to continue the hunting, but based on last season’s success county officials feel confident in the proposal.
“Nothing would preclude us from cancelling the hunt for some reason after the public comment period,” he said.
The county proposed the abbreviated hunt at Island Center Forest in 2010 after some Islanders raised concerns about hunting at the woods, which has a warren of trails used by walkers, runners and equestrians that borders numerous homes. The complaints, as well as questions about the legality of hunting there, caused the county to temporarily halt hunting altogether.
At a public meeting before last year’s hunt, Islanders were split on the decision. Some said hunting at Island Center Forest was unsafe and it would be unfair to close the area to other users, while others argued the forest is one of the only places to hunt on Vashon and has been used for decades to bag deer.
After the hunt, Kimmett said, the county got little negative feedback. In fact, he said, the only complaint was that some hunters left deer carcasses near trails rather than burying them in the woods.
“We’ll ask hunters to be a little more mindful,” he said.
Neighbors, however, remain mixed about the decision to continue the hunt.
Lisa Peyer, who lives on the forest’s border, said she and some of her neighbors wish hunting were banned there altogether. Last October, she said, she heard gunshots that seemed too close to her home.
“Bullets can go through the trail to my house,” she said.
Lisa Coley, whose home is also by the forest, said she, too, is concerned about hunters wandering too close to her house — especially since most of the people who hunted last fall were from off-Island and likely not familiar with the trails.
According to the county’s registration, just six people who hunted at the forest last fall were Vashon residents.
“Our house is brown. It blends in,” Coley said.
Still, she said, she’s happy that the county condensed hunting to just a few weeks. In past years, hunting was allowed in the forest for four months, and she said it was hard for pedestrians to tell whether it was safe to go in.
“Three weeks out of a year, it didn’t bother us,” she said.