Republished by The Seattle Times:

The Sharks Among Us in Puget Sound and Jawesome Factoids

Published on Inside Bainbridge by on August 8, 2013, at 11:40 am

broadnose sevengill sharkEver since I was scared out of my seat watching JAWS as a kid, I have loved sharks. Why? Because my fear of them based on seeing that movie (and first reading the book by Peter Benchley) motivated me to learn about them, and learning about them made me admire them and grow concerned for their welfare. It being national Shark Education Week, I bit at a reason to write about them.

JAWS tapped into a primal fear we humans share, but the truth is very very few of us are killed by sharks—on average fewer than 5 people a year. On the other hand, humans kill about 73 million sharks a year (largely because of the popularity of shark fin soup—see below), having put many species on the brink of extinction. To reiterate, that’s 73 million versus 5.

What Sharks Live in Puget Sound?

Dogfish Shark

Dogfish Shark

According to shark expert Dayv Lowry (yes, that’s spelled correctly), Senior Research Scientist at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, we have four main shark residents in Puget Sound: Dogfish, Sixgills, Broadnose Sevengills, and Brown Catsharks.

Dogfish Sharks. Lowry told me that Dogfish Sharks are the most common here and can run in big roving schools in our waters. They are usually 2-4 feet long, sometimes reaching 6 feet. Dogfish Sharks clean up the marine ecosystem by feeding on weak fish, and they are food for people, larger sharks, and sometimes Orca. They typically live to about 30 years old but have been known to live twice that long.

Sixgill shark

Sixgill Shark

Sixgill Sharks. Most sharks have five gill slits, making this species and the Broadnose Sevengill unusual. Sixgill Sharks are the biggest Puget Sound shark residents at 10 to 20 feet long. Female Sixgills birth their pups here during September and October in shallow water where little fish provide plentiful food and large predators are not likely to be lurking. This also means the mothers can become beached, and sightings of them at this time of year are not uncommon. Lowry said the data is limited, but evidence has shown that about 80 pups are born in Sixgill litters. He said Sixgills have been known to live to 90 years old. These large active predators spend much of their time in deep water, which in Puget Sound can run to about 1,000 feet. Lowry estimated that between Bainbridge Island and Seattle the deepest channel is 500-600 feet.

Broadnose Sevengill Sharks. This shark has a large thick body, with a broad head and blunt snout. Like many sharks, the Sevengill is counter-shaded, with its upper body gray or brown to blend with dark water and substrate when viewed from above and its lower body very pale to blend with sunlit water when viewed from below. Lowry told me Sevengills run about 9 to 11 feet long. Like the Sixgill, Sevengills spend much of their time in deep water cruising along the sea floor and making occasional forays to the surface. Opportunistic predators, they feed on a wide variety of sealife, including other sharks, rays, bony fishes, small whales, and seals. These sharks occasionally hunt in packs. Lowry explained that many shark species, including the Sixgills and Sevengills, will gorge themselves on food to the point of massive bloating and then swim to extreme cold depths where they metabolize the food slowly and make it last as long as a few weeks at a time.

Catshark pups and egg casings

Catshark pups and eggs

Brown Catsharks. Bottom feeders, elusive Brown Catsharks spend most of their lives in very deep water with sandy or muddy bottoms. These sharks are about 1.5 to 2 feet long and have mottled brown coloring and tender skin that makes them vulnerable to predators. They feed on small fish, shrimp, and squid. It is believed these solitary nocturnal sharks incubate a single egg for 7-12 months and then attach it to a hard underwater structure.

Great White Shark

Great White Shark

Great White Sharks? 

Other sharks pass through our waters, including the infamous Great White. Lowry told me a Great White Shark carcass washed up a few years ago on Vashon Island, for example. He said that Salmon Sharks, common along the Washington coast, are often mistaken for Great Whites because of their similar shape and size. Lowry believes Washington coastal waters may be a nursery for Salmon Sharks, who migrate between California and Alaska. Darker than Great Whites, Salmon Sharks are powerful and agile hunters.

Basking Sharks

These immense docile plankton-eaters used to be plentiful in Puget Sound. But killing campaigns in the 1940s, ’50s, and again in the ’70s decimated their population here. Lowry explained that fishermen in Puget Sound regarded Basking Sharks as a nuisance because they would become caught in their nets. So boats were outfitted with sharp spears to gut Basking Sharks. The tactic worked so well Basking Sharks are now extinct in our waters, with the last single sighting occurring off Point Defiance in about 2000. These enormous toothless sharks average 25 feet long but have been known to reach 40 feet.

Basking Shark

Basking Shark

Cool Shark Facts

  • Most sharks give birth to live young; some lay eggs.
  • Shark mothers will go into a sort of hunger strike around the time of birthing their young as a way of protecting them from matri-predation.
  • Shark mothers do not “raise” their young.
  • Sharks regularly lose and replace their teeth. A shark may go through 1,000 sets of teeth during its lifetime.
  • You are more likely to be killed by a hornet, wasp, bee, or dog than a shark.
  • A shark’s sense of smell is so keen it can detect a single drop of blood in the equivalent of an Olympic-sized pool.
  • Shark inner ears can track sounds/vibrations from thousands of feet away.
  • Sharks have membranes in their eyes that help them see in murky water.
  • Most sharks have skin covered in small razor-sharp teeth called denticles.
  • Many sharks can dislocate and protrude their upper jaw to bite and hold prey.
  • The Whale Shark is the biggest fish in the world, weighing about 90,000 pounds.
  • Like raptors, female sharks are almost always bigger than males.

Uncool Human/Shark Facts

  • Hunger for the expensive delicacy shark fin soup has led fishing industries in Asian markets to kill millions of sharks each year, driving many to the edge of extinction.
  • After sharks are “finned” they are typically dropped back into the ocean alive, unable to swim or pass water across their gills to breathe, resulting in suffocation. Ninety-five percent of their body protein as potential food is wasted.
  • Sharks have survived Earth’s five mass extinctions, but because of our current rapid climate change, heavy predation, and ocean pollution, they may not survive the human-driven sixth mass extinction happening now.

Find out how you can help sharks.

Featured photo of a Broadnose Sevengill Shark courtesy of Jose Maria Perez Nunez. Photos of Dogfish Shark, Catfish Sharks, and Sixgill Shark courtesy of NOAA. Photo of Great White Shark courtesy of hermanusbackpackers. Photo of Basking Shark courtesy of Jidanchaomian.


Endorsed by the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation and published on Inside Bainbridge:

Sensory Processing Disorder Part 1: Defining It

by , published on Inside Bainbridge October 1, 2014, at 7:00 am

October is National Sensory Awareness Month. In conjunction with this national education effort, Inside Bainbridge is publishing a four-part series on Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), citing the latest research, information from experts in the field, and personal stories from parents, caregivers, and kids affected by the condition. (Family names have been changed for privacy.) Read the rest of the series:

The elegance of the animal brain and neurological system makes complex processes seem simple. Our sensory systems tell us where to place our feet, how to maneuver through space, which sounds to ignore and which to attend to, what to focus on in our visual field, how to chew and swallow without choking, when to speak and when to listen, and countless other actions each minute of each day.

bored kids in classroom

All kids have different learning styles;

this teaching method apparently isn’t


A child in a classroom, for example, has to filter out noises from other classrooms, buzzing lights, shuffling feet, and a host of other extraneous sounds in order to focus on the most important sound—the teacher’s voice. This can be challenging at times for many children, but for kids with sensory processing disorder it can be downright exhausting, painful, or even at times impossible.

What SPD Is Not

Sensory Processing Disorder is not ADD or ADHD, although it is often misdiagnosed as such. It also is not a form of autism or Asberger’s, though sensory processing problems often accompany those spectrum conditions. SPD is not a “learning disability” per se, but it may lead to learning and emotional problems.

What SPD Is

Research on SPD began in earnest in the 1960s and 1970s with the work of neuroscientist and occupational therapist Dr. Anna Jean Ayres. She described SPD as a neurological “traffic jam” preventing parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to accurately interpret sensory information.

Some peoples’ fun is other

peoples’ sensory nightmare.

Extensive research and practitioner work has followed Ayres’s pioneering studies, but a widespread lack of awareness and understanding of SPD still persist in the general population. Some remain skeptical, dismissive, or simply unaware of the condition. But for families, caregivers, and educators dealing with kids displaying SPD symptoms, the condition is very real.

A current goal of the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation is to get recognition for SPD in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), due out in 2013. Difficulty getting recognition for “newly emerging” diagnostic conditions is old news. Before 1980, autism was labeled a form of childhood schizophrenia, and the full autism spectrum wasn’t included in the DSM until 1987.

A 2004 study conducted by the SPD Foundation found that “at least 1 in 20 children’s daily lives is affected by SPD.” A 2009 study suggested that “1 in 6 children experiences sensory challenges sufficient to disrupt their academic, social, and/or emotional development.”

Based on new research, the SPD Foundation, led by Director Lucy Jane Miller, Ph.D., OTR, identifies three major categories of SPD:

  1. Sensory Modulation Disorder. This includes sensory overresponsivity, sensory underresponsivity, and sensory-seeking behaviors, or combinations thereof. People with this condition can alternate from one state to the other, sometimes seeking stimulation, for example with hand flapping or spinning, and at other times retreating from stimulation by hiding or going off alone.
  2. Sensory Discrimination Disorder. This includes difficulty with accurate perception of all the five senses, plus proprioceptive awareness (knowing how much pressure to exert), vestibular awareness (knowing where you are in space), and interoceptive awareness (being aware of your bodily functions, like hunger and the need to go to the bathroom). People with sensory discrimination problems may have trouble reading because they can’t discriminate between letters, or they may have trouble identifying who is speaking to them because they can’t locate the sources of sounds.
  3. Sensory-Based Motor Disorder. This includes postural disorders and/or dyspraxia (difficulty planning and carrying out motor tasks). People with sensory motor problems may have low muscle tone, difficulty holding utensils, poor posture, trouble with balance, and low stamina.

Terry and Jan in Seattle have a son, Eli, who slumps and has trouble holding his pencil firmly when he writes and draws. He has difficulty sitting up straight at school and at the dinner table, and his handwriting is poor. Sometimes he falls out of his chair. Eli’s Sensory Motor Disorder makes him unable to keep up with playground activities and leaves him feeling socially isolated and embarrassed, especially around the other boys in his class.

People with SPD may have problems in one, two, or all three areas, to varying degrees. The often very different manifestations of SPD make it a challenge to diagnose and treat. It can be bewildering to people unfamiliar with the condition, making it easy to mistake as the result of poor parenting or character flaws such as stubbornness, belligerence, laziness, or lack of intelligence.

Morgan and Jim, parents in Portland, Oregon, have two kids with SPD, displaying two very different forms of Sensory Modulation Disorder. Their daughter is generally overresponsive to sensory input, screaming at mild pain and dissolving into long crying fits, even in public, over minor disappointments. Their son, on the other hand, is sensory-seeking, often hitting, biting, touching, and talking excessively in school and at home. Both children are highly intelligent, which is not uncommon for children with SPD.

Boy on metal climbing ladder.

SPD can feel insurmountable.

According to Paula Jarrard, MS, OTR, and doctoral candidate at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions, there is a correlation between giftedness and SPD. She based her conclusions partly on two studies, one by the SPD Foundation that found that 35 percent of the children in one large sample (n=500) from a gifted and talented center exhibited symptoms of SPD. The second study showed that almost 17 percent of gifted children that were tested at a different center had SPD.

Although a significantly higher-than-average number of SPD kids may be gifted, they often suffer from low self-esteem, anxiety, and poor school performance, leading to underachievement in adulthood.

Bainbridge Island psychotherapist Elizabeth Turner, who works with many SPD children, explains that their difficulty filtering and interpreting sensory information can create chronic stress: “Sensory-challenging situations, like chaotic classrooms, for example, can feel overwhelming and create an anxiety response that becomes physiologically wired into the nervous system. These kids develop a flight, fight, or freeze reaction that becomes involuntary without intervention.”

So what begins as a neurological difference in SPD kids often develops into a socially isolating and emotionally debilitating condition. In the next feature in this series, I will examine what it’s like living with SPD from the point of view of those who have it and their parents and caregivers.


Republished by

Bainbridge Islander Wins National Award for Best Bad Sentence

by , published on Inside Bainbridge November 24, 2014, at 7:00 pm

Bulwer LyttonIt takes a certain kind of genius to write badly—very very badly—but in a nevertheless entertainingly bad way. This is no job for the sophomoric college sophomore, the bombastic buffoon, the platitudinous politician, or the tired and uninspired local reporter. Bainbridge-based writer Elizabeth (Betsy) Dorfman has been perfecting her purple prosody for quite some time, and the fact that her apex achievement to date involves not one but two (sort of) dead floating moose(s), is the whipped cream on the caviar, so to speak.

Dorfman is the winner of the 2014 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, a contest with origins in 1982 at San Jose State University. The contest is named after Victorian novelist George Edward Bulwer-Lytton who began his 1830 novel Paul Clifford with the inspiring sentence, “It was a dark and stormy night” but didn’t even have the creativity to originate the line. The contest challenges entrants to compose bad opening sentences to imaginary novels.

With no further delay, here is Dorfman’s turd of a sentence:

When the dead moose floated into view the famished crew cheered—this had to mean land!—but Captain Walgrove, flinty-eyed and clear headed thanks to the starvation cleanse in progress, gave fateful orders to remain on the original course and await the appearance of a second and confirming moose.

On the contest’s web page, Dorfman describes herself as “a former screenwriter and retired arts business owner [and] a fan of good writing, skeeball, Nordic Tug trawlers, tofu, Maine Coon cats, granddaughters, hoppy beer, hiking boots and black jelly beans.“

She beat out thousands of competitors from all over the world. In addition to enjoying the honor, she was awarded a measly $150.

What kind of competition was Dorfman up against? Check out the carefully crafted tripe from the winner in the Adventure category, Gavin Dobson:

“Listen, Control!” snarled Captain Dan McMurdo across the ether, “I’ve got one engine shut down, the other running on fumes, a seriously wounded co-pilot who won’t last the hour, fifty-three refugee orphans down the back, and a nun for a radio operator, so turn the goddam landing lights on goddam pronto—sorry, Sister.”

See more of the winning drivel here. 


Republished by

Teen Arrested for Alleged Murder of Jenise Wright Nodded an Admission of Guilt

by , published on Inside Bainbridge August 11, 2014, at 7:55 pm

gabriel gaetaGabriel Gaeta appeared in Kitsap County Superior Court this afternoon, August 11, where Judge Kevin Hull reviewed his suspected crimes and set bail at $1 million.

The stocky, muscular 17-year-old wrestler stood quietly and motionless before the court while the following charges against him were read:

  1. Murder in the first degree with three aggravating circumstances of concealing commission of a crime, sexual motivation, and particularly vulnerable victim
  2. Felony Murder in the first degree with two aggravating circumstances of sexual motivation and particularly vulnerable victim
  3. Rape of a child in the first degree with two aggravating circumstances of sexual motivation and particularly vulnerable victim

Gabriel Gaeta led into courtCourt documents describe the following evidence against the suspect:

  • Authorities found bloody girls underpants and a girls shirt in the woods near where Wright’s body was later uncovered. Forensic analysis found semen on the underwear that matched the DNA of Gaeta. DNA evidence matched the blood to Wright.
  • Authorities found blood-stained underwear and shorts, a blood- and mud-covered shirt, and a bloody towel in Gaeta’s bedroom.
  • During a police interview, detectives asked Gaeta if two specific friends of his were responsible for Wright’s death, and in both cases he shook his head, indicating no. When they asked if he was the only one involved in Wright’s death, he “clearly nodded his head.”

When investigators found Wright’s body in a wooded area behind Steele Creek Mobile Home Park, she was almost completely submerged in a three-to-four-feet deep muddy bog with a small wood pallet on top of her.

An autopsy of Wright revealed that she had multiple skull fractures from blunt force trauma to the head, pre-mortem vaginal tearing and trauma consistent with rape, and signs of strangulation. The autopsy determined that Wright was moved between 30 minutes and 3 hours after she died.

Gabe GaetaAccording to the court records, Gaeta displayed a distinct change in affect when interviewers were in the interrogation room talking with him versus when he was left alone in the room. When interviewers spoke with him, he looked away, staring motionless. When they reviewed his behavior alone in the room on film later, they saw that he stretched, yawned, moved around, and drank water.

Gaeta lived with his parents on Wright’s street, two mobile homes down from the trail leading to the place where her battered body was found. The teen was well known to the girl’s family, and he attended her vigil.

When investigators initially requested a DNA saliva sample from Gaeta on August 4, his parents said he had been home all weekend and was too upset about her death to submit to the test. Investigators returned to collect a DNA saliva sample on August 8.

Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge said Gaeta, who turns 18 in December, will be tried as an adult. He could face a life sentence but cannot be put to death because he was a minor when his alleged crimes were committed.

Courtroom photos by Julie Hall. 


Republished by The Seattle Times:

How a Barren WWII Military Base Became Beautiful and Beloved Battle Point Park

by , published on Inside Bainbridge December 11, 2013, at 2:18 pm

battle point navy baseMilitary-style, the Battle Point Navy radio station land (now Battle Point Park) was cleared and flattened when it was constructed at the start of WWII. Through that war and the Korean war, the base served a crucial communications role between the mainland United States and the Pacific. The base included five radio towers, as well as a maintenance shed, barracks, transmitter building, helix house, mess hall, 900-foot-deep well, and elevated 75,000-gallon water tank.

The 90.5-acre site was carved from forest and farms on the highland between Port Orchard Bay to the west and Manzanita Bay to the northeast. Even after the military moved in, written accounts noted that the area was home to robins, mallards, crows, pheasants, California quail, sparrows, owls, Flickers, Jacksnife, hawks, killdeer, Stellers jays, towhees, junkos, and red fox—many species that still live in the Park’s habitat.

The Park District Takes Ownership

corner of Battle Point Navy Base

Corner of Battle Point Navy Base

By 1971 the once-active base was declared surplus government property, and, lucky for Bainbridge Islanders, on May 5, 1972, the fledgling Park District took ownership of the land, agreeing to remove the five radio towers and create a place for public recreation.

Looking at photographs of the flat, barren land that comprised the future site of Battle Point Park some 40 years ago, our community of about 5,500 people at the time showed true vision. And fortunately the Park District had the wisdom to hire Bainbridge architect John Rudolph and Seattle landscape and environmental architects Jones and Jones to create a master plan for the park.

Creating a Master Plan 

battle point park master plan

Battle Point Park Master Plan

With input from community members through public meetings, a questionnaire, and letters, the master plan took shape. Here is the beginning of the preface that accompanied the initial plan submitted by the architects:

“Once in a while it happens; priorities get reversed and people come first. Once in a while a place and circumstance meet and merge with added dimension. Once in a while the right things happen and people have fun and learn in the process.”

Citizen requests primarily included a jogging path, ballfields, areas for walking and contemplation, gardening plots, tennis courts, a children’s playground, and bike paths. A swimming pool also drew strong support but was never completed at the site.

battle point park clearing

Military buildings and vehicles

Here are some representative excerpts from citizen letters:

  • “We disapprove emphasis on dirty, noisy, fuel-consuming, ecologically detrimental hobbies.”
  • “More softball fields. More tennis courts and a jogging trail.”
  • “Perhaps the citizens would appreciate the opportunity to rent a garden plot.”
  • “Battle Point should be the center for year around activities such as bike paths, horse trails, also a children’s playfield.”
  • “It appears to me that any park, wherever it is located, should have an area or areas set aside for simply walking and contemplating. . . . I only hope the Park District realizes that ‘development’ does not necessarily mean laying yards and yards of asphalt.”
  • “A large extensive play area for children 7 and under.”
  • “[This] is a PRECIOUS gift to the Parks Department and the people on Bainbridge should have pride in this valuable gift.”

Funding Fails, and Then Passes

aerial of Battle Point Park

Backward aerial view of Battle Point Park from reversed film negative

On November 6, 1973, a general municipal election to approve funding to implement the Battle Point Park Master Plan failed. Two months later, the Park District held a special election on January 15, 1974, and the issue passed by 76 percent.

Building the Park

Before the landscaping of Battle Point Park began, the Park District solicited bids for the formidable job of removing the radio towers. After receiving several costly bids, they arranged a deal with a salvage firm in Seattle that agreed to pay $1 in exchange for the 311 tons of steel and 4,690 pounds of copper that came with the removal of the towers.

With help from the National Guard, the Park District prepared the site for a massive movement and regrading of soil. They outlined and flattened trails, built hills, dug out and filled ponds, planted trees, installed drainage systems, and constructed ballfields, tennis courts, and other recreational facilities.

Battle Point Park today

Battle Point Park today

Phase I did not have the financing for building soccer fields, but areas for two fields were graded and surfaced with sawdust and sand. Likewise, the trails were initially unpaved but tamped down to create a hard surface, and a children’s play park was put in later.

More changes have taken place at the Park over the years, but they continue to adhere to the original vision of the 1973 Master Plan. In 1991 the helix house inducer building was converted into the Edwin E. Ritchie Observatory. In 1992, the nature trail that runs along the eastern edge of the secondary duck pond was built in memory of Karin Sherer Williams. In 1996 the gazebo at the north side of the duck pond was built in memory of Katherine Olson. And in 2005 the transmitter building was converted for use as a children’s gymnastics facility.

Where the Name ‘Battle Point’ Comes From

The Battle Point Naval Base and Battle Point Park were not named for the U.S. military presence there, but rather for a Native American battle (or battles) believed to have occurred on Battle Point, the nearby peninsula.

Special thanks to the Bainbridge Island Metro Park and Recreation District for access to their historical files and to the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum. Images and photos courtesy of the Bainbridge Park District and Bainbridge Historical Museum. Photo of Battle Point Park trees by Julie Hall.


Republished by The Seattle Times:

The Facts About Ticks and Lyme Disease in Western Washington

by , published on Inside Bainbridge February 18, 2015, at 9:30 pm

western black legged ticks life stages from CA Dept HealthThese days most of us have relatives or friends struggling with Lyme Disease and its devastating impact. An infectious disease, Lyme is caused by at least three species of bacteria from the genus Borrelia, which dates back some 20 million years.

Lyme disease in the United States was identified in 1975 when a constellation of cases was discovered in Lyme and Old Lyme, Connecticut. By 1978 scientists determined that it is transmitted by infected ticks.

Ticks and Lyme Disease in Western Washington

Although Lyme disease is relatively widespread in the Northeast and increasingly in parts of the Midwest, it remains fairly uncommon in our region. However, ticks infected with Lyme disease do exist here in Western Washington, and locally transmitted cases of Lyme disease occur here.

According to Washington State Department of Health (WSDH) entomologist Liz Dykstra, who specializes in ticks, there are three main types of ticks in Western Washington: the American dog tick, the coastal squirrel tick, and the western blacklegged tick (also known as the deer tick), which is the primary carrier of Lyme disease in the west coastal region.

cdc map distribution of western blacklegged tick

Centers for Disease Control distribution of western blacklegged tick

“People don’t realize we have ticks at all in Western Washington,” Dykstra said. “We suspected that Lyme disease was here, but it wasn’t until 2011 that funding became available to test for the Lyme disease parasite. It’s probably been here for quite a while.” Dykstra explained that the tick that carries Lyme disease in the Northeast and Midwest is a separate species from the western blacklegged tick and that there is yet another carrier tick in Europe.

Since testing began in our area four years ago, Lyme disease has been identified in ticks in the following counties: Mason, Pierce, Clallam, and one in King. Dykstra was not aware of ticks from Kitsap County having tested positive for Lyme. However, she pointed out that only a small sample of 37 ticks from Kitsap have been lab tested. She said some ticks from Bainbridge Island have been tested but none have turned up a positive result for Lyme—”yet.” She explained that given the limited testing there is no way to know for sure if the disease is present in a given community. Kitsap Public Health District spokesperson Karen Bevers corroborated Dykstra’s data.

western black legged ticks life stages from CA Dept Health

Western blacklegged tick larva, nymph, adult male, adult female, courtesy of CA Dept. of Health

Washington State Department of Health epidemiologist Melissa Kemperman said cases of Lyme disease in our state have gone up somewhat from the mid-2000s but not dramatically. Between 2010 and 2013 there were 15-19 confirmed/probable cases of Lyme disease, with most acquired out of state. She said it is hard to say if the number of cases is rising: “It is low, but there is some risk out there. This is something we’re very interested in and watching closely. People should be aware.”

The Tick Life Cycle and Complex Host/Vector Relationship

Although many people believe deer are the main vectors for Lyme disease, deer mice are the disease’s reservoir. “Deer mice are the cute little ones in your garage in the winter time. They also carry hantavirus,” said Dykstra. Larval western blacklegged ticks hatch from eggs and attach to deer mice, becoming infected. As they grow, they drop off, molt into nymphs and find a slightly larger host to feed on. In their final life stage, nymphs molt into adults and look for a large host to feed on, such as deer, dogs, cats, and people. Interestingly, the ticks, rodents, and deer are immune to Lyme disease. People and dogs get it. Dykstra said cats appear to be less susceptible to it, possibly in part because they are more fastidious about grooming.

I asked Dykstra how deer mice contract the disease in the first place. “We’re not sure how it originates in the population,” she said. “It could have been brought here. Ticks keep it alive and passing around.” She said that other rodents common around human habitats, including the house mouse, Norway (brown) rat, and black (roof) rat, do not carry the disease.

western black legged tick alameda county health Dept Environmental Health

Western black legged tick courtesy of Alameda County Health Dept.

Western Blacklegged Tick Facts

  1. Adult bodies are slightly smaller than the diameter of a pencil eraser and have white lines on the lower half.
  2. In the nymph phase they are the size of a poppy seed.
  3. They form a “cement plug” that helps keep them in place under the host’s skin.
  4. They inject anticoagulates to thin the blood and facilitate feeding.
  5. It takes 24 to 36 hours for a carrier of Lyme disease to transmit the infection to its host.
  6. Prime tick habitat in our region is the forest/field edge zone and grassy areas.
  7. They thrive in temperatures in the 50s and 60s and moist conditions, making spring (and sometimes part of fall) their most active time of year.
  8. Dykstra said with our mild February this year, the ticks are hatching now, with their prime months March through June.
  9. They can attach to a host for days and become increasingly bloated with blood, making them easier to find and turning their brown bodies a grayish color.
  10. Extremely bloated ticks can reach the size of a jelly bean.

Preventative Measures Against Ticks

The Washington Department of Health recommends protective measures against western blacklegged ticks. When in tick territory,

  • wear long pants and long sleeves;
  • tuck pant legs into long socks;
  • wear Deet on exposed skin;
  • spray clothes with Pyrethrum (it kills ticks); and
  • afterward check yourself and your dogs thoroughly, especially around the neck, ears, eyes, belly, and underarms.

Signs of Lyme Disease Infection

Lyme disease bull's eye rash

Lyme disease bull’s eye rash

A “bulls-eye” rash around the bite zone is characteristic of Lyme disease but does not always show up or is not always noticed. The incubation period of Lyme disease is 3-10 days, and a prompt antibiotic treatment is most effective. Dykstra said that a Lyme disease infection can show up as a red bump, along with flulike symptoms, within 2-3 weeks of a tick bite. Anyone concerned about Lyme disease exposure/symptoms should seek prompt medical intervention.

The Washington State Department of Health recommends tick removal with tweezers as close to the bite site as possible, pulling it straight out. Dykstra said the western blacklegged tick is notorious for breaking off at its mouth parts. She said Lyme disease cannot be transmitted through the remaining head, but it can lead to secondary infection, so the area should be cleaned thoroughly.

Transmission of Lyme Disease

Dykstra hesitantly likened the transmission of Lyme disease in our area to a lottery. “The prevalence is very low, but if you happen to be the one that got the tick that happened to have it. . . .”

She encouraged people who find ticks on themselves or on their dogs or cats to send the ticks in for lab testing. “We’re missing folks because of a lack of lab testing,” said Dykstra. Not all ticks submitted will be tested, however, depending on funding levels and the condition of the tick.

Here is a form to include with your sample. Dykstra emphasized that the more information provided about the location and circumstances regarding ticks the better.

Photo of rash courtesy of Chris Booth.


Republished by The Seattle Times:

Six Critically Ill Poisoned Bald Eagles Treated at West Sound Wildlife Shelter

by , published on Inside Bainbridge March 25, 2013, at 1:10 pm

West Sound Shelter staff treating eagle[Read our update of this story.]

Sunday, March 24, the staff and volunteers of West Sound Wildlife responded to an emergency call from Stephanie Estrella of Raindancer Wild Bird Rescue regarding six critically ill bald eagles. The eagles were located in Winlock, Washington. They were feeding off of two horse carcasses that had been euthanized on March 20 and left in a field, exposed to wildlife. The potent drug Euthasol, or pentobarbital sodium, is utilized by veterinarians for painless and rapid euthanasia. The pentobarbital that killed the horses quickly ravaged the eagles.

Currently it is unknown if more animals were exposed to the poison. Coyotes, raccoons, owls, turkey vultures, and eagles, along with countless other species, are native to the area. The U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife is investigating.

All six of the eagles were alive when they reached the Raindancer Wild Bird Rescue in Olympia. After taking in the eagles, Estrella quickly contacted Mike Pratt, Director of Wildlife Services for West Sound Wildlife Shelter on Bainbridge Island, and the birds were transported to West Sound.

Tube feeding immature bald eagle

Tube feeding immature bald eagle. Bald eagles have mottled brown plumage until they reach adulthood at 4-5 years.

When the eagles arrived they were in critical condition and required life-saving measures. Some were vomiting and convulsing, while the most critical were unconscious and unresponsive. The small staff of the West Sound Wildlife Shelter, along with Dr. Charles Crawford of Compassionate Critter Care and Dr. Alicia Bye, worked around the clock administering Toxiban, which is activated charcoal, to counteract the effects of the poison. A dozen volunteers provided emergency supportive care.

Two of the eagles remain in critical condition, two are in stable but guarded condition, and two are in recovery. The Shelter’s staff is closely monitoring the birds. The cost of this care for each 24-hour period is estimated to be over $3,000.

West Sound was notified today, March 25, that a seventh poisoned eagle was discovered and transported to The Portland Audubon for treatment.

If you would to support the care of these eagles and the over 1,000 other raptors, birds, and mammals the Shelter will treat this year, you can make a donation at

West Sound Wildlife Shelter holds its most important fundraising event, The Call to the Wild Auction, this year on April 20. For more information, visit their website or call Lisa Horn or Elsa Watson at 206-855-9057.

Story update: Status of 7 Poisoned Eagles that Fed on Carcasses of Euthanized Horses

Photos courtesy of Dottie Tison.


Republished by The Seattle Times:

Low-Income Seniors Report Ongoing Abuse at Winslow HUD Facility

by , published on Inside Bainbridge February 11, 2015, at 4:32 pm

winslow arms sign

Residents of the federally subsidized Winslow Arms Apartments at 220 Parfitt Way have come forward with allegations of ongoing harassment and abuse in their housing complex.

Six residents of Winslow Arms approached Inside Bainbridge with complaints about the apartment manager, who will be referred to as Tracy. Correspondence records between other residents at the housing facility and its private Seattle-based management company, Pan Pacific Properties, reveal a broader record of alleged abuse.

Winslow Arms is a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) facility, which means that its management company receives HUD funding to provide “affordable, decent, and safe rental housing” for low-income seniors and disabled individuals.

Approximately 65 people live in Winslow Arms, many of whom are elderly and/or severely disabled. Allegations against 44-year-old Tracy, who took over as manager last May, include the following:

  1. She has physically “shoulder-block” shoved one of the residents (a small fragile woman with a heart condition) on two occasions, saying “f*ck you” and “you better be careful.”
  2. She routinely threatens residents with eviction without cause, putting notices on their doors.
  3. She has verbally attacked numerous residents, saying “f*ck you” and giving them the finger.
  4. She yells at, stands in the way of, and rushes at residents, using her large body (6′ 1″ and 230 pounds) to bully them.
  5. She speeds in her car at 30-40 mph through the parking lot of the residence.
  6. She smokes on the premises, against HUD policy.
  7. She slams doors. Residents provided photographic evidence of holes from a doorknob and doorstop of a recently slammed door.
  8. She denies her hostile actions, lies about tenants, and acts victimized by tenants.
  9. She does not consistently keep the posted business hours in her office and has failed to show up for some scheduled meetings.
  10. She threw hot coffee on a tenant’s door.
  11. She has “torn down” tenant-provided holiday decorations and removed a tenant’s radio from the common area, with no explanation.
  12. She has canceled longstanding scheduled excursions and regular driving trips to Walmart for residents without explanation.

None of the reporting tenants were willing to go on record with their names in this article for fear of reprisal, including targeted harassment, eviction, and physical harm. In a group meeting with this writer, several tenants described Tracy as “a ticking time bomb” and said that they believed it is just a matter of time until she resorts to serious physical violence and harm. The tenants present at our meeting said they have lived at the apartment complex for between 3 and 5 years and have never had cause for complaint about previous managers. One tenant said she has filed an anti-harassment order against Tracy but has not used it for fear of retaliation. She said she is prepared to move to a women’s shelter to avoid further harassment.

Numerous residents said they have contacted Pan Pacific dozens of times for months with their concerns, in person and in writing, and that the manager there, Laurie Hirschberg, has whitewashed their complaints and done nothing to address the problems at Winslow Arms. Copies of correspondence provided to Inside Bainbridge corroborate this claim. One tenant said of Pan Pacific, “They won’t do anything unless they are threatened with having to pay money for legal fees.” Residents sought legal consultation but lack the financial resources to pay a lawyer to pursue the matter in court. They reported that when three representatives from Kitsap Adult Protective Services met with 12 concerned residents at Winslow Arms, they told the residents the situation with Tracy was “terrible” but they were unable to intervene because no physical abuse had occurred. After the alleged shoving incidents, the assaulted individual contacted Adult Protective Services again and was told that they were sorry but because of budgetary constraints they could only intervene in cases involving the disabled.

Nontenants of Winslow Arms also have complained to Pan Pacific about interactions with Tracy. For example, Eileen Magnuson, Program Specialist for the Bainbridge Island Park District, wrote a full-page letter to Hirschberg dated August 26, 2014, describing an incident in which Tracy reportedly became combative with her and others from Waterfront Park Community Center when they parked in the Winslow Arms parking lot to take residents and other Bainbridge Island seniors on a field trip, something the Park District had been doing for over 20 years. Magnuson said that when she stopped into Tracy’s office to introduce herself and explain the longstanding arrangement, Tracy became “very upset” and began collecting the names of the people parked in the lot. To appease Tracy, Magnuson, the participants, and the bus driver moved to another location. “Though surprised and embarrassed, we did our best to salvage the positivity and enthusiasm that our trips usually inspire,” wrote Magnuson. “. . . I understand that this conversation came as a surprise to Ms. [Tracy]. It may be that your company does not want us to park in Winslow Arms lot in the future. I can understand that. My concern is as to how Ms. [Tracy] conducted herself as a representative of your company. We could have had a professional conversation discussing how to best remedy the situation rather than the confrontational and accusatory dialogue that ensued. . . .”

A Helpline House counselor wrote a letter dated November 3, 2014, on behalf of one of the tenants, saying, “The manager has chosen to verbally abuse and bully many of the tenants. The environment has become very stressful and unsafe. This atmosphere has had an extremely adverse effect on [my client’s] health.”

When Inside Bainbridge called Pan Pacific, we were told Hirschberg was the contact person for issues regarding Winslow Arms and she was unreachable that day. When we called her the next day she declined to speak on the phone and asked us to submit our questions in writing. We sent her our questions and requested a prompt response to them. She wrote us a day later, saying she would respond in two more business days.

Domestic abuse counselor Barbara Chandler-Young of the Kitsap County YWCA, who works from an office on Bainbridge Island, also approached Inside Bainbridge on behalf of several residents of Winslow Arms. Chandler-Young, who has worked as a counselor and client advocate at the YWCA for 9 years, said she believes Tracy is abusing the residents of Winslow Arms: “I don’t usually go public in my work, but in this case I want to shout it from the rooftops. What is happening there is outrageous. We need to shine the light of day on this situation. I would hope that the community would be up in arms.”

When Inside Bainbridge called HUD about the situation at Winslow Arms, we were referred to the Bremerton Housing Authority, which has a contract to administrate management of HUD housing across the state. Bremerton Housing Authority Executive Director Kurt Wiest told me his organization has received a complaint from a resident at Winslow Arms about Tracy’s treatment of tenants. “We take this very seriously. Where somebody lives is a very deep part of their lives,” he said. Following HUD regulations, Wiest notified HUD and the owner of Winslow Arms, Bess Uchimura, about the complaint and our inquiry. Wiest suggested we try calling HUD again, but no one was available to answer our call. When we tried to contact Uchimura, her phone number was disconnected, and her email address was defunct.

Note: After reading this story, Bainbridge Island Police Chief Matt Hamner contacted Inside Bainbridge with concern about the situation at Winslow Arms. He said as far as he is aware there have been no reports by Winslow Arms tenants of criminal activity. Inside Bainbridge made a public records request for reports involving Winslow Arms to the department earlier this week. Chief Hamner said a detective is currently working on an in-depth review of police files. He encourages anyone who has experienced a criminal offense to come forward to the police. The tenant who was allegedly shoulder blocked told Inside Bainbridge that she reported the incidents to the police but was told that without evidence of physical harm the case was unenforceable. She said the consulting Officer, Jeff Benkert, told her she could get a restraining order against the manager. As stated above, she said she filed for an anti-harassment order but has not used it for fear of retaliation.

Photo by Sarah Lane.



Republished by The Seattle Times:

Bainbridge’s New Stone Mosaic ‘Labyrinth’ Is a Tour de Force (w/ Photo Gallery)

by , published on Inside Bainbridge July 3, 2014, at 6:00 am

Hall's Hill Labyrinth entry pathI’m telling you straight off that I cannot reveal the labyrinth’s specific location. The wishes of its benefactors dictate that it remain a place of peace primarily for locals, not a tourist attraction. When you find it, as many Bainbridge Islanders and their friends already have, you will understand.

The Hall’s Hill Labyrinth exemplifies the traditional purpose and symbology of a labyrinth (not a maze) as a kind of spiritual and imaginative journey moving on a circuitous path to the center of the self and back into the world again, connecting us with natural and cosmic energies. Created by artist Jeffrey Bale, the Hall’s Hill Labyrinth is a powerfully energetic work of art, layered with meaning, permeated with intelligence and love, founded on vision and hard physical work, and blessed with ineffable “being.”

Jeffrey Bale

Jeffrey Bale

The Labyrinth was officially introduced to the community Sunday, June 29, at a dedication ceremony at which some 150 people gathered to welcome and honor the completed work. They held hands, played music, and some cried, including those who had visited Bale during his construction of the Labyrinth and donated small tokens for him to add to it, often in memory of a lost loved one.

I interviewed Bale the day after the ceremony as he was saying farewell to his creation in a quiet spot surrounded by madronas, Douglas firs, big-leaf maples, red cedars, and the rest of the small park beyond. I found him alone there walking the labyrinth’s circuits one last time (at least for a while) before heading back to his home in Portland, Oregon. Commissioned by two Bainbridge Island residents (who prefer to not to be named) to build the piece, Bale spent nearly a year visioning, planning, and finally building the labyrinth, which took three months of dedicated labor.

The Sun center with eagle feather

The Sun center with eagle feather

Bale estimates he collected some 25,000 pounds of rocks for the labyrinth from Bainbridge Island beaches, poring over shorelines for the rights shapes, sizes, and colors, mindful not to disturb beach creatures in the process, and hauling bucketfuls to and from his little 1986 Toyota pickup. He collected the majority of stones from nearby Rockaway Beach, which has a wide variety of rock dumped from lumber vessels that used rock from far and wide as ballast. Thirty-six feet in diameter, the labyrinth’s circuits are framed in steel. Bale used mortar to place his rocks, which he artfully, laboriously arranged section by section of circuit by circuit.

Bale told me he created the labyrinth as a path leading to the Sun at its center, which visitors reach by moving around circuits dedicated to the nine planets in our solar system (including Pluto!), as well as a moon circuit that you can see in the outermost ring containing 12 moons for the lunar cycle. He based his design on the 11-circuit Medieval walking labyrinth at the Chartes Cathedral in France.

Starfish, with five points

Starfish, with five points

The Hall’s Hill Labyrinth is surrounded by eight boulders placed to mark the Cardinal points. Its entrance is due east and has four differently colored “pie slices” reflecting the four seasons. Looking from the eastern entry point, winter is to the right, with a whitish/gray overall tone, and greenish spring is to the left. Fall is the reddish area, and summer darker gray-blue. The colors of the stones are richest when wet and are best viewed after a rain to experience their full pallate. However, the labyrinth also is wonderful to behold dry, when it is safest to walk on barefoot, something Bale recommends, saying the reflexology of the experience is a healing and deeper way to connect to the energy of the place. When I returned to photograph the labyrinth early the next morning, two women arrived and thoughtfully walked it in bare feet.

Summer/fall flower

Summer/fall flower

In constructing the planetary circuits, Bale was mindful of the Greek/Roman mythology surrounding them, and he incorporated that mythology in his stonework in various ways. For example, one can find lightning bolts in the Jupiter/Zeus ring, starfish in the Neptune/Poseidon ring, and hearts in the Venus/Aphrodite ring. Bale constructed the center Sun ring with longer stones to animate the spot with a sense of powerful shooting fire. Flowers are ubiquitous throughout, because, as Bale put it, “It is a heavenly garden.” After starting the labyrinth in the fall, Bale took the winter off to travel to Greece, where he visited sacred sites and collected stones and bits of ruins to add to the labyrinth.

Bale also incorporated concepts from the Native American medicine wheel, which symbolizes the cycles of life, symmetry, balance, and, most profoundly, connectedness with nature. In keeping with Native American tradition, Bale included in his stonework token animals such as the eagle, bear, buffalo, and mouse, as well as personal objects from friends and visitors to the site. Looking closely, one finds within the labyrinth crystals, shells, sea glass, and other personal items, common additions to medicine wheels.

Tokens for lost loved ones

Tokens for lost loved ones

Bale, who built the cistern at Bainbridge Island’s IslandWood and the Council Ring for Dan Hinkley and Robert Jones at their garden at Windcliff in Indianola, Washington, said his stonework was inspired by his time in Spain where he was impressed with mosaics. In essence Bale creates stone mosaics informed by a range of cultural belief systems and natural cycles, united by his goal of fostering connectedness and heightened consciousness.

Bale told me that during his work on the labyrinth he was often moved by energies flowing to and from the site. At the start of the project in creating the first eastern moon, he found an eagle feather. He explained that the eagle is the animal that presides over the east in the medicine wheel. The feather still stands in the center of the labyrinth where he placed it as a token. Bale said that on the day he completed the labyrinth two eagles circled overhead for several hours, completing his own personal creative cycle. During the project, when he was focusing on the Jupiter/Zeus circuit, and putting in stone lightning bolts, lightning struck very nearby in Blakely Harbor. “I feared I had invoked the spirit of Zeus, and I gathered my things and just took off,” smiled Bale. He said when he was working on a deer token, a doe walked across the stones. Pileated woodpeckers, a powerful medicine wheel animal, were ever present in a snag next to the site.

Tibetan prayer wheel

Tibetan prayer wheel

I asked Bale about his connection to Bainbridge Island, having done major art projects here twice now. He said he loves Bainbridge and finds it a beautiful place with some wonderful people. He also referred to a kind of grief here, particularly in relation to parents and their children, stemming from a combination of overindulgence and neglect that is often symptomatic of monetary privilege and spiritual deprivation. Bale hopes that the labyrinth will inspire people to rethink their lifeless groomed yards and find ways to nurture the nature around and within them.

As Bale worked he was often treated to the sound of the Tibetan prayer wheel, located in the park just down the path from the labyrinth. Made by Tom Jay, the beautiful, intricately wrought bronze prayer wheel is designed for the “pilgrim” to determine an intention or prayer and turn the wheel. A bell rings on the 9th rotation, setting one’s intention into the world.

Now Bale’s labyrinth has made its full rotation, setting its intention into the world. You are invited to go discover what you think that means to you.

Learn more about Jeffrey Bale and his blog posts about creating the labyrinth here.

Photos by Julie Hall.


Republished by

The Port Townsend Getaway: 16 Ideas for Fun

by , published on Inside Bainbridge June 17, 2013, at 6:58 am

Port Townsend Historic CourthouseWhat’s so great about Port Townsend? What isn’t? It’s got beaches (and beaches!), sprawling parks, funky shops, excellent art and music, every kind of cuisine, an old-style movie theater, history, beautiful old brick buildings, a nationally respected Arts Center, pretty Victorian homes in all shades of the rainbow, and every kind of place to stay, from converted bordello to snappy beach-front cottages to upscale B&Bs to dog-friendly motels on the water.

A one-hour drive from Bainbridge Island across Hood Canal and through picturesque Beaver Valley, Port Townsend is an irresistible getaway for a day or two or more. Whether you want historic small town charm, beachy quiet, an artist’s oasis on the Olympic Peninsula, or all of the above, PT is it and then some.

James Bay Bookseller on Water Street.

William James Bookseller

16 Ways to Have Fun in PT

1. Shop Downtown. There’s just about everything in the blocks that ramble along downtown’s Water Street and meander in and out of the side streets of this main drag. You’ll find art galleries, new and used books, outdoor wear, jewelry, music, toys, games, and plenty of restaurants for all tastes, from Thai to upscale Northwest cuisine and everything in between.

2. Visit Fort Worden State Park. It’s got stunning beaches; a Marine Science Center; Centrum, an art center that attracts international musicians and writers for arts events; a campground; rental houses; bluff trails; Copper Canyon Press, one of the best literary publishers in the country; a Hostel; historic military buildings and gun emplacements; and almost limitless picnic spots.



3. Tour the Galleries. The new Max Grover Gallery just opened in the back of Sideshow Variety shop on Water Street. When I asked Grover how his launch was going he said he had just sold 20 original pieces in his first week. When I left, the number had increased to 21. (See our previous article on Grover’s exhibit at BIAC.) Also check out the eclectic art at Red Raven Gallery, an artist co op. Artist Sarah Fitch is a standout there, and something of hers came home with me too. Hey, it was my birthday!

4. Picnic in Chetzemoka Park. This local’s favorite in the Northeast corner of town was created as a memorial to a S’Kallam Indian chief. The park features a gazebo, flower gardens, seriously funky old trees, a grassy slope down to the beach, picnic tables, and bathrooms.

Larry Scott Memorial Trail.

Larry Scott Trail

5. Walk or Ride the Larry Scott Memorial Trail. This lovely trail, a recently converted railroad, welcomes bikers, walkers, horses, and well-behaved dogs off leash. Pick it up at the boatyard along the water front, pass the paper mill, and head into the woods.

6. Peruse Books at William James Bookseller. It’s easy to lose track of time in this great used book stop on Water Street.

7. Grab a Slice of Waterfront Pizza. PT’s favorite ‘za is available by the slice or whole pie. Order extra cheese.

8. See a Flick at the Rose Theater. This restored 1907 theater features film introductions by theater staff.

9. Explore Old Fort Townsend State Park. A short drive south of PT, this private and pretty state park is a great spot for hiking and picnicking, and it makes a good biking destination.

Port Townsend Boatyard


10. Walk Around the PT Shipyard. This busy port repairs boats from around the region and is home to the highly respected Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding. It’s fascinating to walk around here, where every style and vintage of boat can be seen. Watch workers repairing hulls and moving ships with monster-wheeled equipment.

11. Grab a Burger and Brew at The Public House. For lighter fare, they have great soups and salads too.

12. Hit the Farmer’s Market. Voted the Best Farmers Market of the Year by the Washington State Farmers Market Association, this bustling banquet of fresh goods in Uptown is worth a visit if you’re there on a Saturday. The Market is open April through October between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. and November and December between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.


13. Check Out the Victorian Architecture. Walk, bike, or drive up the hill into the neighborhoods to see the old Victorian beauties.

14. Enjoy Enchiladas at El Sarape. This is where the locals eat casual Mexican. It’s located at the end of Water Street.

15. Explore the Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park. You can’t miss this 80-acre park as you drive into town. It makes a pleasant place to walk or picnic.

16. Hoof It Up the Terrace Steps to the Historic Fire Belltower. Enjoy Haller Fountain and walk the steps up to the Fire Belltower on the hill. The fountain and steps are downtown on Washington Street.

Photos by Julie Hall.