A cautionary tale about hunting, dogs and Island Center Forest | Commentary

This is an advisory to dog owners, hunters and those who manage the deer hunt in Island Center Forest.

When I read about the Island Center Forest deer hunt, I had to shake my head over King County’s David Kimmett, quoted as saying, “The biggest complaint was that the hunters could do a better job of cleaning the deer and removing whatever they leave on site. … If that’s the only problem we had, that’s not bad.”

I’d like to share with you why I think that attitude is potentially deadly for a very large population of the forest’s users: dogs.

First, though I have only hunted birds, I’ll try to illuminate for the non-hunters what Mr. Kimmett means by “cleaning the deer.” You cut it open and rip out its guts. You have to do that as soon as you can after you’ve killed the deer or the meat goes bad. You usually do this where the deer falls. The result is a steaming pile of entrails and organs.

That’s pretty much what has to happen whenever any animal is killed for human consumption.

In nearly all cases, dead deer are cleaned in remote locations, unlikely to be stumbled upon by dogs and their owners out for some exercise. In the wilderness, the guts are quickly eaten by opportunistic meat-eaters, ranging from bears to birds, all part of the cycle of nature.

But we don’t have all those meat-eaters on Vashon.

My dog and I know from personal experience.

Two years ago, I went for a walk in Island Center Forest. It was my first time there. Dogs, like their cousins the coyotes, will eat anything, and this is especially the case with Labrador retrievers like mine, who perceive an hour without food as a starvation regimen worthy of a war crimes tribunal. Put an animal like that anywhere near the remains of a deer carcass, and she will find it and eat it.

It was January, two months after the end of deer season. Jessie, my dog, happened upon a deer gut pile literally five feet from the edge of the parking area. To her, it was a jackpot, and before I got to her, she’d wolfed down a fair amount.

Around 4:30 that afternoon, I noticed her staggering. She vomited her dinner and something that looked like a thick tube sock made of rubber — a deer stomach. I bagged the thing and drove Jessie to the vet. Within minutes, he had induced vomiting and then hydrated, intubated and sedated Jessie to stabilize her enough for me to transport her to the animal hospital in Tukwila. There, she was treated and kept overnight.

That stomach had come out of a deer in October and rotted on that pile for two months, generating neurotoxins that can kill a dog in a matter of hours. If Jessie had eaten that thing later in the day, manifesting symptoms during the night, I would have woken up to find her dead. As it was, I had a sleepless night and an $800 vet bill.

All because some knucklehead thought “the coyotes’ll get it” as he spilled that deer’s guts at the parking lot and drove away.

By the way, it was probably that same knucklehead who took a dump right next to the gut pile and, of course, Jessie had found that first and gleefully rolled in it to get a real good stink on. I got her into one of the Island Center Forest ponds to clean her up before I took her home, and that little exercise probably distracted me from the question of what she’d eaten.

I admit, had Jessie been on a leash, problem avoided. But we all know the realities of dogs in Island Center Forest.

Mr. Kimmett, I hope this will influence future hunting management in Island Center Forest. Please deploy a Dumpster and a dispenser of large garbage bags — and a Porta-Potty. Then point out that the forest isn’t all that big and let the hunters know that if they don’t haul out the entire deer, guts and all, I for one will campaign to stop deer hunting in Island Center Forest permanently. There are way more dog lovers than hunters, so it should be quick and easy work. Clean up after yourselves, boys, and we’ll all get along just fine.


— Mark Nassutti writes

historical fiction, volunteers for the Emergency Operations Center and tends an ancient apple orchard with help from friends in the

Vashon Fruit Club.



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