A camera catches sight of a doe and her fawn on Naval Magazine Indian Island.

A camera catches sight of a doe and her fawn on Naval Magazine Indian Island.

Navy fields photos of its four-legged neighbors in Indian Island wildlife survey

INDIAN ISLAND — The U.S. Navy’s natural resource managers have been conducting a wildlife survey at Naval Magazine Indian Island in order to gather up-to-date data on its inhabitants.

In order to do this, cameras were set up around the mostly undeveloped island across the bay from Port Townsend and have caught photos of everything from a curious hummingbird to two cougars.

“The Navy conducts surveys of its land to assure that we have the most up-to-date information on what occurs on our lands to make the most informed decisions and educate planners and project managers on how to minimize or eliminate environmental impacts of upcoming or proposed projects,” Sara Street, one of the natural resource managers for Naval Magazine Indian Island, said in an interview Tuesday.

The study focuses on the types and population sizes of the animals that frequent the island’s 2,700 undeveloped acres.

“We are looking at the health of the animals on the island,” Street said in a news release. “We are looking at where they congregate. We also like to keep track of the cougars’ travels.”

The trail cameras have documented two cougars, a male and a female. According to a news release from the Navy, there have also been sightings of the cougars jumping the fences surrounding Indian Island and reports of them swimming across Kilisut Harbor from Marrowstone Island.

“The cougar is more curious than anything else,” Street said. “The female occasionally watches people. I think she just wants to see what is going on.”

Cougars aren’t the only large predators spotted on Indian Island. While the trail cameras have yet to get a photo, there have also been reports of a bear climbing one of the fences into Indian Island.

“Cougars and black bears are common in this area,” Street said. “You may not see them, but they are there. Most large predators will not approach humans unless they are sick or injured and cannot hunt their regular prey.”

Aside from some great photos of wildlife in their natural habitat, this year’s study has shown a drop in the island’s coyote population. Street said they have yet to determine what might have caused the population drop, but the photos of coyotes from the trail cameras show the animals appear to be very healthy.

“I used to see groups of four coyotes in the cameras,” Street said. “The ratio used to be about one coyote for every four deer photographed. Today, it’s about 30 deer to one coyote.”

Coyotes used to be a bit of a problem on the island. According to Street, there were reports last year of coyotes wandering closer to the inhabited areas of the island, even peering through office windows. However, Street said with the population decrease, reports of coyote sightings have also dropped.

Other than that one instance, Street said, they have had no issues with animals interfering with any human activities on the island. However, thanks to the information collected by Street, projects have been altered in order to be more environmentally friendly.

Most recently, power poles that would bring power to the pier were rerouted to protect adjacent wetlands and maintain eagle habitat that holds 10 known nests.

“We review all the projects proposed on the island to make sure that the effects to the environment are as minimal as possible,” Street said.

“Currently, there are no terrestrial threatened or endangered species on the island, but all work completed near the water is subject to control and mitigation measures to protect various listed species occurring in the waters surrounding Indian Island.”

________

Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at cmcfarland@peninsuladailynews.com.

One of two cougars that frequent Naval Magazine Indian Island passes by a trail camera.

One of two cougars that frequent Naval Magazine Indian Island passes by a trail camera.

A trail camera captured this image of one of two cougars that frequent Naval Magazine Indian Island.

A trail camera captured this image of one of two cougars that frequent Naval Magazine Indian Island.

A deer on Naval Magazine Indian Island comes in for a close-up with a trail camera.

A deer on Naval Magazine Indian Island comes in for a close-up with a trail camera.

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