Neighbors worry Bainbridge Island construction will hurt wildlife

BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, Wash. -- The site of a proposed shopping center on Bainbridge Island is raising new concerns about the impact the project could have on wildlife.

Employees at a local shelter are worried the project will force animals out and possibly put their lives at risk.

A developer is looking to build the shopping center on several acres of land off Highway 305 and High School Road. Crews starting clearing trees from the area on Wednesday.

Lisa Horn, Executive Director of the West Sound Wildlife Shelter, said her shelter isn't taking an official stance on the shopping center development, but employees are concerned about the animals living in the trees on the site. Now that the trees have started to come down, she fears some of the animals may soon die, she said.

"Once you drop those trees onto the ground, any animals on the ground will be killed or displaced. And the problem is, when they're scared, they're going to run," said Horn.

Horn fears animals living in and around the trees could make their way onto nearby roads or yards to avoid the machines being used to clear trees on the property. She doesn't know how many animals live on the property, but she said employees are starting to get phone calls about birds seen flying above the land. That's a clear indication that there's something on the ground, she said.

"This happens every time you clear cut a forest, you're going to displace animals. The problem with this time of year when you clear cut, it's baby season. It's a late baby season," said Horn. "Those babies don't stand a chance. Moms can't get them moved fast enough, so when a tree is coming down, they're hiding from the noise. They're not thinking about how can I get my babies out of here."

The trees are the same ones a 19-year-old woman tried to save by staging a 36-hour protest in one of the trees until Tuesday night. Chiara D'Angelo was back near the site on Wednesday hoping to gain support for her new plan to buy the property and turn it into a community space.

"I came out and my goal was accomplished. The boycott was a great success," D'Angelo said. "This has rallied this community and changed minds."

Horn isn't hoping to change minds, but she is asking for awareness.

"Watch. Take it easy driving around this area," said Horn.

Horn said if anyone spots an injured bird or animal in or around the property, they should call the West Sound Wildlife Shelter and ask it be picked up. So far, she hasn't received any such requests, but she knows they're coming, she said.

"We want to make sure we can get them to the shelter and heal them up from their injuries, if that's possible. And then we can re-release them," Horn said.