Vashon Nature Center has recently learned of several livestock injuries (including to pony, miniature donkey, and pig) that might be due large predators. All animals have survived. We currently have cougar, bear and coyotes on Vashon as well as dogs– all of which can cue into livestock as food. At the center, we have great empathy for the challenges these animals may pose for farmers and pet owners. At the same time, from what we have learned from animal predator experts, the increase in large carnivores seen on the island is unlikely to be a one-time occurrence. It is something that will continue to happen into the future. Because they can swim here, it is impossible to guess when new animals will arrive on the island.
Let’s make a renewed effort as a community to work together and take responsibility for keeping our pets, livestock and ourselves safe. WDFW and other agencies like King County can help us with large carnivores but they cannot do everything. Ultimately and in the long run it’s up to all of us. At the Nature Center we continually discuss how we can help. Here are some things we can offer:
–We’ve created a general information pamphlet on how to be safe in areas with large carnivores that has been vetted by wildlife scientists: http://vashonnaturecenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Large-Carnivore-Flyer_20160420.pdf
–Contacts for WDFW agency personnel are available here: http://vashonnaturecenter.org/living-wildlife/
–We are working on an active livestock management guide that will be reviewed by wildlife agency experts as well as local farmers. Expected release is August. Some effective techniques we can recommend right now are available on our cougar page under how do I protect my livestock: http://vashonnaturecenter.org/cougar/
—-We post the 5 most current confirmed sightings of the cougar from our wildlife camera network on our website. We post sightings because they are a good reminder that large carnivores are here. However, we don’t recommend using sightings as a livestock protection tool because large carnivores can change location within a matter of hours: http://vashonnaturecenter.org/wildlife-sightings-highlights/
–Islanders can email or call in sightings of coyotes, bear, cougar and more. Over the long-term these sightings help us assess wildlife use patterns and identify when new animals show up. We share information from this sightings database with WDFW and other agencies including King County and the Land Trust: firstname.lastname@example.org
–We are starting a natural history series about the cougar on our blog. It will include stories of personal encounters along with local challenges and success stories in livestock management. We hope to provide insight into the diversity of experiences this community has had with the cougar over one year and how he has shaped both our fears and triumphs.
A small portion of this work is supported by a King County Service Area grant. A huge thank you to our largely volunteer staff, advisers and our island community that make most of this possible!
Let’s continue to work together to better understand island carnivores and to learn tools and strategies to reduce the number of livestock predations. Islanders are known for standing together to creatively address challenges that come up in our community. Living with wildlife is possible here. Please help us spread the word, share suggestions, have conversations and give neighbors a helping hand if they request it. We want to keep all island animals safe including human, domestic, and wild.