OLYMPIA - Heightened security at U.S. military bases resulting from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have led to the closure of several hunting sites, including two on Whidbey Island, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
More than 1,300 pheasants were scheduled for release throughout the 10-week season at two sites on Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, said Mick Cope, WDFW upland game section manager.
"The birds will be redistributed to other hunting sites and released, providing additional hunting opportunity throughout the region," Cope said.
Bird releases and hunting will resume on the Navy sites once security concerns have subsided. Hunters should contact WDFW's Region Four office for updates on the Whidbey Island closures, (425) 775-1311.
Because of this last-minute change, Cope said WDFW will buy back any western Washington pheasant hunting permits from purchasers who had intended on hunting exclusively at the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island sites. Hunters interested in a refund should call their local WDFW regional office prior to the beginning of the general westside pheasant hunting season, which runs from Sept. 29 through Nov. 30.
Eastern Washington hunters have also lost some hunting opportunity and access. The Mill Creek pheasant release site at Bennington Lake near Walla Walla has been closed to all public access. This restriction is the result of enhanced security at a water resource project managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Also the U.S. Army's Yakima Training Center could close to civilian access, including hunters. For current hunting access information, visit the Yakima Training Center website at www.lewis.army.mil/yakima.
One bright spot is that the pheasant releases and hunting at Fort Lewis in Pierce County will continue as scheduled. Hunters interested in accessing the base's hunting sites must call in advance for a hunting registration number. Call (253) 967-8260, or (253) 967-8262, or (253) 967-8275 for more information.
Cope said hunters wishing to access any U.S. government-managed properties should contact the facility prior to going hunting. Hunters should also check WDFW's Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Seasons pamphlet for nontoxic shot requirements.