West Sound Wildlife Shelter expands to second, Port Gamble-based facility

PORT GAMBLE — West Sound Wildlife Shelter will soon migrate from its NE Dolphin Drive location on Bainbridge Island to a new, permanent habitat in Port Gamble.

The shelter’s flight has been imminent for five years, as the terms of its lease with Bloedel Reserve — which owns the shelter’s current site — comes to an end.

The organization will not totally depart the island, however. An intake center will remain on Bainbridge, executive director Lisa Horn said, and the group will continue to be as active as they’ve always been in education and outreach efforts around the region.

“This is where we were born and we don’t want to lose that connection,” Horn said. “We will be maintaining an intake center and a presence on the island, but this second campus will allow us to have an education center up there. So, for the first time ever, people will actually be able to come to our center for tours and classes, or a nature walk, and we’re super excited about that.”

At the Bainbridge location, visitors are prohibited by the nature of the shelter’s permits.

“The animals that are here that are being treated for injuries and illness are not supposed to be exposed to humans and the public because we need to be able to release them back to the wild,” Horn said. “If they get habituated with too many people around, then they will not be successful once we release them back to their home.”

The new location though, gives the shelter a chance to expand in what it offers.

“We have secured the piece of property with the incredible help of Olympic Property Group,” Horn said. “They have been absolutely amazing to work with. The piece of property itself is perfect. It’s 12 acres. It’s very heavily wooded, and it will allow us to have a space that is big enough for us to expand out but also give us enough of a buffer to have a nice, quiet area for the animals as they rehabilitate.”

The property is a centerpiece in the ongoing redevelopment of Port Gamble as a residential, commercial and tourist destination by Pope Resources, Horn said.

She said the shelter expects to be totally off the NE Dolphin Road property by the end of 2021.

“We’ll still be doing the classes, going to schools and civic groups … but this will allow people to actually come to us, which is super, super exciting,” she said. “We’re really looking forward to being able to provide retreats and classes, where people can actually come and have an experience that lasts longer than a half hour or 45 minutes.”

The Port Gamble property reportedly has wooded and open spaces, small streams, and little surrounding development. It boasts a quiet, pastoral setting that will accommodate the unique wildlife rehabilitation and educational needs of the shelter nicely, Horn said.

The move itself has been a five-year project, with Horn having scouted nunerous potential sites along the way.

Though the semi-departure from Bainbridge is bittersweet, she sees nothing but success on the horizon for the shelter.

“We did our due diligence,” Horn said. “We looked at every piece of property on the island. I looked at every piece of property throughout north and central Kitsap, and really this was the best of both worlds. We didn’t want to get too far away from the island, but the island was also incredibly cost prohibitive for us.”

She added, “We’re not leaving the island. We were born and raised here. We love the island. We do not want to lose the connection to the island. But, because of space issues with Bloedel and space issues with us, we had to find a bigger place to go and this is the perfect opportunity.”

To learn more about the move schedule, the new location, and how to volunteer or donate, visit www.westsoundwildlife.org.