By Heidi Sutton

Arcadia Publishing recently released “Whaling on Long Island” as part of its Images of America series. Written by Nomi Dayan, the executive director of the Whaling Museum & Education Center of Cold Spring Harbor, the book explores the impact that the whaling industry had in shaping Long Island’s maritime heritage. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Dayan about her new book and her view on the future of whales.

What made you write this book? Any more books on the horizon?

One objective in our museum’s strategic plan is to become more involved with research projects. When we were approached by Arcadia, the publisher, to put together a whaling-themed pictorial book, we jumped on the idea. I was surprised to find that there has not been a book published about Long Island’s whaling history in 50 years! There are good articles, journals and sections in other books, but no all-encompassing source for this incredible story of Long Island’s heritage. When I discussed this lack of information over dinner with my husband, he said, “Why don’t you do it?” Perhaps now is the time when we can document and share the full story of our whaling history, especially because Arcadia’s Images of America series is template-based — I was constrained by the set number of pictures and text on each page. So, I saw this book more as a beginning than as an end.

What surprised you, if anything, during the making of this book?

Finding useful photographs is, of course, a treasure, but what surprised me most was connecting with other individuals across Long Island (and beyond!) who were genuinely eager to help me tell this story — people I would likely not have met if I didn’t put this book together. Forming that network was a surprise gift! Other surprises [included] how far back whaling really goes on the Island, both with the Native Americans, as well as settlers, who started whaling almost immediately after arriving. The first commercial whaling in the New World happened on our shores! And after farming, whaling was Long Island’s first industry. I also didn’t realize how exploited Native Americans were in the beginning stages of commercial shore whaling. The Shinnecock, Montaukett and Unkechaug tribes played a fundamental role in the development of shore whaling, and it was so disheartening for me to see how quickly they became tied into seasonal cycles of exploitation and debt.

How did you go about compiling all the photographs and material for the book?

Research was like a treasure hunt! Yankee whaling and photography essentially missed each other, so I had to piece together this story in the best visual way that I could. Many of the photographs were sourced directly from the museum’s collection of 6,000 objects — and there were more images that didn’t make it in the book! Other photographs were taken from the collections of other museums and historical societies, as well as local history collections in libraries and their very helpful staff, particularly at the East End.

The cover of Nomi Dayan's book, 'Whaling on Long Island.' Image from Nomi Dayan
The cover of Nomi Dayan’s book, ‘Whaling on Long Island.’ Image from Nomi Dayan

Did you get to choose the cover photo? If so, why did you choose this one?

Yes, I chose the cover photo. I felt this photo, taken by one of the museum’s founders, Robert Cushman Murphy (perhaps the foremost scientist to come out of Long Island) while aboard the Daisy [from] 1912 to 1913, showed a moment in time which was a mix of history and art. The overhead view shows the iconic image of human vs. whale, and captures the excitement, courage and drive behind venturing into the dangerous ocean to catch the largest animals on Earth. I wanted to show the whaleboat — a brilliant innovation — with its harpoons aimed forward. Will those harpoons catch a whale? Will the whale get away? Will the men return in the same shape they set out? … All we know is how hard these whalers will try, and they will risk their lives doing so. I liked how the photo shows men of color, as whaling was our country’s first integrated industry, and this photo shows how physically laborious their job was. You almost feel your arms hurt looking at them!

What kind of future do whales face? Which ones are in danger of extinction?

Whaling was one of our country’s — and planet’s — most lucrative businesses. Whale products changed the course of history. But in this process, people nearly wiped whales off the face of the Earth. Many whale species are endangered or show low population numbers, some critically, such as the North Atlantic right whale — there are only approximately 500 left! This means we have a great responsibility today — a responsibility to reflect on the repercussions of our actions, and to apply our knowledge to future decisions affecting the marine environment. Advocating for cleaner and quieter waters is saying “welcome back!” to these whales. The museum is currently installing a new exhibit, Thar She Blows!: Whaling History on Long Island which will open Oct. 2 (the opening event is called SeaFaire and is a family-friendly celebration of our maritime heritage). One aspect of this exhibit will discuss modern threats whales face, and visitors will be invited to take a pledge to help whales. One pledge will be not releasing balloons, which often end up in the ocean and can be devastating when ingested by whales and marine life. Another pledge for people who eat fish will be ensuring seafood is sustainably caught to protect healthy fish populations.

What is the whale’s biggest threat right now?

In one word — humans! Whales are facing new human-caused threats today. While commercial whaling is still a threat (Norway, Japan and Iceland defiantly kill thousands of whales annually, primarily for dietary reasons) on a global scale, there are larger threats, such as entanglement in fishing gear and ship strikes, which are serious concerns, as well as pollution — particularly plastic pollution. Many whales who are found beached have plastic in their stomachs. The ocean is also becoming noisier and noisier, which affects whale communication. Climate change, and its effect on the marine food chain, is one of the most important concerns today — changes in sea temperature, changes in food sources. Cumulatively, it’s getting harder to be a whale!

What can we do to help them?

Reducing pollution and reducing greenhouse emissions is very important. I know we may feel our actions are removed from the lives of whales, but collectively, our actions really are changing the Earth. When I went whale watching two weeks ago out of Montauk, I was so disheartened to see the floating Poland Spring plastic bottles bobbing in the ocean. We can do better. Consider using a reusable bottle! Readers should also consider the needs of the marine environment in their decision in our upcoming election. While it can take a while for populations to recover, it can happen. Humpback whales and gray whales are showing remarkable signs of population recovery, which is encouraging and inspiring. As our country’s energy needs continue to grow today, and we continue to exploit natural resources, whaling offers the timely lesson that nature is not infinite and will one day run out. We have the responsibility of applying our knowledge of whaling history to current and future decisions affecting the marine environment.

“Whaling on Long Island” is available for purchase at The Whaling Museum & Educational Center’s gift shop, Barnes & Noble and

A beautiful lawn can also be a danger to your pet. Stock photo

By Dr. Matthew Kearns, DVM

Everyone wants a yard to be proud of (me included). However, what really gives the yard some “pop” can also be very dangerous to our pets. Here’s a short list of hazardous items commonly used to make are yards look beautiful.


Fertilizer that is spread on grass rarely leads to symptoms of poisoning. Those cases that do only show mild gastrointestinal, or GI, upset (mild diarrhea, decreased appetite). However, if a patient ingests a large quantity (literally eats into a bag) of fertilizer, the GI symptoms are worse (severe vomiting, diarrhea) and may require hospitalization for IV fluids to avoid complications of dehydration and shock.


Regular mulch is not usually too much of a problem, but cocoa mulch can be dangerous. Cocoa mulch smells delicious not only to us humans but also to our pets. This is why many try it. If there is a large amount of cocoa beans and hulls in the mulch, a dog can ingest the same two products as in chocolate: theobromine and caffeine. These two products not only cause an upset stomach (vomiting, diarrhea) but also are powerful stimulants. In large enough quantities pets can develop symptoms of tachycardia (accelerated heart rate), tachypnea (accelerated breathing) and, potentially, seizures. These symptoms usually require hospitalization and can (with large exposures) be life threatening.


Not all lilies are toxic but those that are can be quite lethal. Oxalates from the poisonous lilies will chelate, or bind, to calcium in the bloodstream and deposit into the tissues. Cat’s kidneys are particularly sensitive to this process, and as little as a few leaves or petals can lead to acute kidney failure. Acute kidney failure secondary to lily ingestion is heartbreaking because most times the damage is done when one begins showing symptoms and either the patient passes on their own or must be humanely euthanized.

Bone or blood meal

Bone meal or blood meal are by-products from the meat packing industry that are commonly used as an organic alternative in fertilizer components or as deer, rabbit and wildlife repellants. These products (because they are bone or blood meal) are very palatable and pets (especially dogs) tend to ingest them in large quantities. Exposure in large quantities can lead to GI obstructions (which can lead to surgery), pancreatitis or generalized GI irritation (vomiting, diarrhea). Dogs also tend to dig up flower bulbs planted in soil dusted with bone or blood meal, and this is a double whammy: the complications of bone/blood meal and ingestion of flower bulbs (flower bulbs also cause GI upset), not to mention your flowers never bloom if the bulbs are destroyed.

Compost pile

Another way to recycle and make your flower gardens look beautiful is to use a compost pile. During decomposition, molds grow and mold can produce a poisonous waste called mycotoxins. Ingestion of large quantities of moldy material from compost piles can lead to neurologic symptoms (weakness, tremors, even full-blown seizures). There is no true antidote, so many patients need to be hospitalized until the toxins clear their systems. Limiting access to these substances is the best option, but that is not always possible (dogs are more at risk than cats). If limiting access is not possible, it is best to choose another option to beautify the yard.

Dr. Matthew Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office.

Scenes from the pet parade. Photo by Bob Savage

Over 120 patrons and their pets took part in Comsewogue Public Library’s 16th annual Pet Parade in Port Jefferson Station on Monday, June 27. The front lawn of the library was full of dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, birds, rabbits and even chickens who made a truce to get along for a day. A wonderful time was had by all.

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Raccoons are naturally occurring hosts for the Leptospira bacteria. Stock photo

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

May and June always kick off the annual checkup season and with all our exams, we discuss vaccines. When I talk about vaccines like distemper, rabies, kennel cough and Lyme, I always see a nod of understanding. However, when I bring up the leptospirosis vaccine, the quizzical look on people’s faces always reveals a lack of knowledge on this disease.

I think the reason is that as little as 10 years ago, leptospirosis was limited to very rural areas primarily where dogs had more of a risk of coming in contact with wildlife. The more “suburban sprawl” we see brings us (and our pets) in closer contact with the natural reservoirs of this disease. 

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection caused by various strains of the Leptospira bacteria.  This bacteria is carried by many wild animals. Naturally occurring hosts are raccoons, opossums, foxes, skunks and various rodents. Raccoons and skunks are scavengers as much as hunters, so they will commonly venture into our yards to knock over garbage pails etc., in search of food.

It has also been estimated that approximately 90 percent of rats in major cities carry leptospirosis, so it has become more of an urban threat than previously realized. These hosts shed, or pass, the bacteria in their urine, contaminating both the environment and water sources. Not only can these hosts carry the bacteria without showing symptoms of disease, they also can shed the bacteria for extended periods of time.

Once in the soil or water, the Leptospira bacteria is very hearty and can survive for weeks to months waiting for another host. The bacteria can gain access to a new host through the membranes of the mouth (drinking contaminated water) or through abrasions and cuts on the skin (from the soil). Once in the bloodstream the bacteria travels to the kidneys and starts to divide.  When the bacterial numbers are high enough, the new host will start shedding bacteria via the urine. 

No specific breed of dog appears to be more susceptible or resistant to the infection. However, middle-aged dogs (as compared to young or old) and male dogs (compared to female) appear to be at higher risk. It is theorized that middle-aged male dogs are more likely to wander and get into more trouble (so far as coming in contact with a natural host). 

The most common organ system affected is the kidneys, but the Leptospira bacteria can also affect the liver, lungs and central nervous system.  Once the bacteria reaches the kidneys replication, as well as inflammation, damages kidney cells.

The symptoms of leptospirosis can be quite general in the beginning. Anything from a drop in appetite and an increase in thirst to vomiting, severe lethargy and in some cases death.

The good news is that leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that can be treated with antibiotics and other supportive care (IV fluids, IV medications etc.). The bad news is many times the initial infection is cleared but there is permanent damage to the kidneys. 

An effective vaccine is now available to prevent this disease. So, check with your veterinarian if your dog is at risk (dogs that get out of the yard, are in contact with many other dogs, have wildlife nearby and standing water) and should be vaccinated.  Let’s keep our dogs safe this summer.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.

Nunu wants a home outside the town animal shelter. Photo from Brookhaven Town

The town animal shelter is now open every day as part of an effort to get more dogs and cats adopted.

Supervisor Ed Romaine said the expanded hours would make it more convenient for people to visit the shelter in Brookhaven hamlet, which is located on Horseblock Road.

The Brookhaven Town Animal Shelter and Adoption Center is now open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 631-451-6950 or visit

Environmentalist Jan Porinchak explores Willow Pond. Photo from Carole Paquette

Naturalist Jan Christopher Porinchak will lead an in-depth exploration of the natural wonders of Caleb Smith State Park Preserve on Jericho Turnpike in Smithtown on Saturday, June 18, at 1:30 p.m. Reserve by calling 631-265-1054. The walk will take approximately two hours and is not recommended for children under ten years old. The event, sponsored by Friends of Caleb Smith Preserve, is free, however, the preserve’s parking fee of $8 will be in effect.

An avid naturalist and environmental advocate, Porinchak will lead participants on a walk through the many landscapes of the park, offering tips on identifying the various plants and animals that will be encountered.

A hike leader for the Long Island Sierra Club, he is also an art teacher at Jericho Middle School and an award-winning natural science illustrator. 

For more information about Friends of Caleb Smith Preserve, their events and the park, go to:

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When we hug our dog, we are removing their instinct to flee, which can lead to significant stress. Stock photo

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

I was somewhat taken aback when I saw plastered all over the internet that a hug is stressful to dogs. This hullabaloo came from an article published in Psychology Today. I didn’t have access to the entire article but the author, Stanley Coren, stated that in a review of over 250 images on the internet of dog owners hugging their dogs, he noted signs of stress in four out of five dogs. 

Coren is a psychologist and professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia, as well as an award-winning author. He has dedicated his career to researching dog behavior, so I truly believe he knows what he is talking about. 

Coren states that dogs are cursorial by nature. What does this mean? It means that dogs have limbs adapted for running and, as much as they will use their teeth to defend themselves if necessary, their first instinct is to flee. When we hug our dogs, what are we doing in their eyes? We are removing that first instinct to flee. This can lead to significant stress, even the potential for the dog’s perceived need to defend themselves. 

Now, I know that dogs are social beings and do like contact. However, I do agree that their idea of acceptable contact may not be the same as our own.  As much as we see dogs as part of the family, they see us as part of the pack. We may talk to a dog, but a dog will communicate with us as they would other dogs and this communication is mostly through body cues. If these cues are ignored by humans (particularly children who cannot understand the differences between human and canine behavior) or other dogs, the risk of aggression and bodily harm becomes very real. 

When we hug our dogs, we are removing their instinct to flee, which can lead to significant stress.

My own dog Jasmine loves to sleep in bed with my son Matthew. However, much to Matty’s chagrin, she will only sleep by his feet. Jasmine will tolerate Matty pulling her up to sleep next to him but always eventually moves back to his feet. If he tries too many times to change her position, she will jump off the bed and find another place to sleep. 

Jasmine’s reaction is nonconfrontational, but what if she were not of such a laid back temperament?  She would be face to face with my son where he is restraining her movement. Therefore, I think it is important to look for more subtle cues so we can intervene before disaster occurs. 

What are cues of stress in dogs?  In general terms a relaxed dog will have its ears forward, mouth open and a general look of happiness. A worried dog has its mouth closed, ears back or down, wrinkles around the eyes or forehead and is usually shrinking back.

Beyond these body cues are what are called “stress signals.”  Stress signals are signs that a dog is very worried and trying to communicate to others (another dog, a human) that, “I am not a threat.” However, if these stress signals are ignored (by other dogs or children), the dog may feel it has no option other than act aggressively to defend itself.

Stress signals include: a raised paw, yawning (when they are not tired), licking their nose, tail tucked, slouching or slinking, barking and retreating or hiding. If a dog is restrained (hugged) when showing these body signals or cues, things could get out of control quickly. 

I hope this article is helpful in not only explaining the differences between how dogs view certain behaviors compared to how we humans view them, as well as signs of stress to avoid conflict.  Now go give your dog a . . . scratch behind the ears!

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office.

Eric Powers holds a great horned owl. Photo from Carole Paquette
Eric Powers holds a great horned owl. Photo from Carole Paquette
Eric Powers holds a great horned owl. Photo from Carole Paquette

Biologist and outdoorsman Eric Powers will conduct a birding walk at Caleb Smith State Park Preserve on Jericho Turnpike in Smithtown on Saturday, May 14, from 9 to 10:30 a.m.

Preregistration is required as space is limited. Call 631-265-1054.

The free event is part of the 2016 Lecture Series sponsored by the Friends of Caleb Smith Preserve, and will involve walking about two miles. Walkers are urged to wear sensible footwear and bring binoculars and a camera with a telephoto lens, if they are able.

Having extensively explored the historic Caleb Smith park, “Ranger Eric” — as students know him — will lead attendees to some of his favorite locations to see birds and other wildlife, as well as highlighting plants and freshwater springs, the lifeblood of the park. Ranger Eric suggests bringing any bird feather you would like to share with the group.

See more of Ranger Eric on his new television show “Off the Trail” at For more information, visit his website at

For more information about Friends activities and events, visit

Stock photo

By Ellen Barcel

Recently on the television I heard a newscaster announce that the 17-year cicadas are due to emerge. Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? What effect will this have? Will they damage your plants? Well, not really.

Stock photo
Stock photo

First of all, there are 15 different broods of the 17-year periodic cicadas. They live in the ground for 17 years, each brood emerging during a different year. Brood V is due out this year, Brood VI in 2017, Brood VII in 2018, etc. That means that there is a brood emerging almost every year, but not in the same place. This year’s brood, Brood V, is emerging mainly in Ohio and West Virginia with a small pocket of them on eastern Long Island, around the Wildwood State Park area.

Interestingly, the only place that these 17-year locusts (as they are sometimes known) are found is in the eastern United Sates, nowhere else in the world.

Cicadas live most of their lives, 17 years generally, underground feeding on the roots of plants. Then come spring, usually May, they dig their way to the surface, shed their skin and look for a mate. The males have a high-pitched whine that attracts the females. About a week to 10 days later the females lay lots of eggs. About six to seven weeks later the eggs hatch, the nymphs fall to the ground where they burrow into the soil and feed on plant roots, waiting for 17 years before emerging briefly to mate.

In general, the emerged cicadas don’t do a lot of damage to plants, so there really isn’t a problem, just a lot of noise and a bunch of dead insects when they die off. Mature cicadas are about an inch and a half long, so between the noise and the size you really notice them, that and the strange life cycle. Most of Long Island is home to Brood 10 which is due to emerge in 2021.

A really cool website, Cicada Mania ( has detailed information about not only the 17-year locusts but the 13-year ones as well. Penn State Extension ( also has detailed scientific information, noting that the 17-year cicadas can do damage to fruit trees, causing slits in the bark when the female lays eggs and taking nutrients away from the fruit trees when the nymphs feed on the roots. If you have weak trees, they could suffer some damage. But, cicadas do not chew on leaves the way other insects do.

Personally, I would be more concerned about aphids on roses and slugs attacking my hostas. Tent caterpillars are sometimes in the area, but, while unsightly, unless the same tree is attacked year after year, the tree usually survives quite nicely. Remember, keep your plants healthy and that keeping the balance in nature is very effective in controlling most pests. Birds in the garden, for example, eat a lot of insects. Praying mantises, while large and scary looking, eat lots of insects as well.

The rule of thumb is that unless more than 10 percent of a plant is affected, you can probably leave the pest alone. Don’t freak out if your hosta leaves have a few small holes in them, but do keep checking to make sure the situation doesn’t get out of control. If it does, use the least offensive way of controlling it. Only if the milder controls don’t work, then use the heavy-duty ones, chemicals. This is known as integrated pest management. For slugs, I find that just hand picking them off the plants at night works quite nicely.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. Send your gardening questions to To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

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Legislator Robert Trotta standing among the pet food donations with his daughter, Tori, their dog, Buddy, and Michael Haynes, chief government affairs officer for Long Island Cares. Photo from Susan Eckert

Suffolk County Legislator Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said he was most appreciative of the support he received from the residents who donated to his pet food drive to benefit Baxter’s Pet Pantry at Long Island Cares Inc.

In addition, many customers at the IGA Markets in Fort Salonga and East Northport contributed items to the bins stationed at the stores, as well as from Splash and Dash Pet Groomerie in St. James.

“Everyone was incredibly generous in donating cat and dog food/treats and bird seed, as well as other items for the pet pantry at LI Cares. I am thrilled that we collected 435 pounds as well as a donation of $100 from a local resident,” Trotta said.

Founded by the late Harry Chapin, Long Island Cares is based out of Hauppauge and works to bring together all available resources for the benefit of the hungry on Long Island, the organization said. Long Island Cares also works to provide various humanitarian needs for the greater Long Island community, providing food when and where it’s needed while promoting self-sufficiency and public education.