Animals

The Smithtown Historical Society stepped back in time last Sunday as it presented its annual Heritage Country Fair. Attendees bought tickets for two-hour time slots, and each slot was limited to 50 people. The society adhered to COVID-19 regulations and masks and social distancing were required to take part in the day’s events.

While the historic homes on the grounds were not open for tours this year, Civil War reenactors from the 30th Virginia Infantry, 9th Virginia Historical Society and 88th New York State Volunteers Regiment along with volunteers in costumes were spread out through the property to relay a bit of history.

Alpha Axes were on hand for some ax throwing; Long Island Traditional Music Association (LITMA) performed a Contra Dance; the band Strummin’ and Drummin’ performed; the Island Long Riders put on a cowboy shooting show; Paul Henry sang and played guitar; spinning and weaving demonstrations were held by Spinning Study Group of Long Island; the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts presented a children’s performance of “Moana Jr.” and more.

Guests were also able to enjoy food from Belgiorno Family Mobile Wood Fired Pizza and Up In Smoke BBQ and visit vendor booths including Kathlyn Spins, Genie’s Treasures, League of Women Voters, Angela O’Connell Wreaths and Owl’s Feather Designs.

All photos by Rita J. Egan

Photo from Town of Brookhaven

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Daniel P. Losquadro has announced that the Holtsville Ecology Site and Animal Preserve will reopen to the public on Monday, Sept. 28.

Brookhaven residents are required to make free, online reservations at www.BrookhavenNY.gov/Ecology to book a visit to the Animal Preserve. Only Town of Brookhaven residents with reservations and proof of residency will be permitted to enter for now; masks are required, as well. COVID-19 safety precautions, limited admissions and social distancing measures will be in place to ensure the safety of all visitors and staff.

The Animal Preserve will be open Monday through Friday with eight sessions available for reservations each day: 9 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 12:45 p.m., 1:15 p.m., 1:45 p.m., and 2:15 p.m. The Animal Preserve will be closed for cleaning and sanitizing in between the morning and afternoon sessions.

The Information Center and greenhouses will not be open; access to bathrooms will be available. The Animal Preserve will be open from the main entrance through the Eagle exhibit. Animals available for viewing at this time include alpaca, Arctic fox, Bald eagle, bobcat, Boer goats, buffalo, coatimundi, hybrid fox, hybrid wolves, llama, mini pigs, Nubian goats, other goats, pine marten, prairie dogs, rabbits, red fox, red tail hawk, and skunk.

The Ecology Site is located at 249 Buckley Road, Holtsville. For more information, call 631-758-9664.

The first evidence of coyotes appearing on Long Island happened on June 24, 2013, in Bridgehampton on the South Fork. Stock photo

By John L. Turner

In March of 1995 wildlife officials began a fascinating ecological experiment in Yellowstone National Park, one that is still playing out today twenty-five years later. For in that month they released fourteen grey wolves in the park. Wolves were, as recently as 75 years before, a key ecological component of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem but hatred and prejudice toward predators at the time resulted in their extermination.

With wolves eliminated from the park, elk populations flourished. Their abundance wasn’t such a good thing for the park’s vegetation though, especially in the richer, low-lying areas along rivers, creeks, and other wetlands where they overgrazed the vegetation, destroying habitat and creating erosion problems. The situation quickly changed with the reintroduction of the wolf and for the past two and a half decades wolves have fundamentally reshaped the park’s ecosystem, causing a series of expected, and a few unexpected, changes.

Elk became both less abundant due to predation and more dispersed in an effort to avoid wolves, allowing riverside forests of cottonwood and aspen to become reestablished. The return of these forests set the stage for beavers to increase. It also meant the growth of more berry producing plants which grizzly bears favored. Coyotes decreased as a direct result of wolf predation and less coyotes meant more foxes which, in turn, affected the abundance of birds, rabbits and other small mammals.

Changes in these species affected other plants due to changes in their grazing and eating intensity of leaves, fruits, and seeds. All of these ripple effects, created by restoring wolves to their rightful place in the Yellowstone ecosystem, underscores the brilliance in John Muir’s famous quote:

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to

everything else in the universe.

Well, let’s fast forward to the present and focus locally for we have a similar ecological experiment involving the appearance of an apex predator unfolding before us — but its not Grey wolves and a western National Park but the Eastern coyote and the land mass we call Long Island, the last place in the continental United States the coyote was absent from.

The first evidence of coyotes appearing on Long Island happened on June 24, 2013, in Bridgehampton on the South  Fork. A potato farmer, working in one of his fields, spotted an animal that looked like a German Shepherd but it wasn’t any breed of domestic dog, nor was it a red or gray fox. He was able to snap a photograph and a review by experts confirmed it as an Eastern coyote, the first that had ever been sighted on Long Island.

Since then there have been several other conclusive sightings of coyotes in a few places and then, most notably, a breeding pair (and subsequent family) set up a territory near LaGuardia Airport. Unfortunately, people began to feed them. Adapting to human presence because of the feeding they became more visible and some neighbors began to view them as a safety threat. They were able to convince staff from the federal Department of Agriculture’s “Wildlife Services” Program (an agency that despite its innocuous sounding name kills wildlife as its main mission) to exterminate the family (save one fortunate individual that escaped).

This was a setback but through subsequent colonization attempts the wily coyote has established itself in northwestern Long Island where several breeding pairs now exist. These occurrences, and past efforts, suggest that it’s but a matter of time before coyotes extend their hold here and fully colonize Long Island. As they do, their presence will likely have far reaching impacts to both human and natural communities, as coyotes are likely to cause ecological effects that will ripple through the natural communities on Long Island and the wildlife species that make them up, not unlike what wolves caused at Yellowstone, although obviously involving different species.

Though generally shy and retiring and typically avoiding direct contact with humans, coyotes will, nevertheless, establish territories adjacent to, and within, suburban developments. This fact suggests Long Islanders should change some behavioral habits to minimize adverse interactions.

For example, coyotes are known to prey on pet and feral cats and small dogs in urban and suburban communities, so it is imperative that pet owners remain diligent and aware. Releasing a pet cat outside to “do its business” (a bad idea because of the ecological damage cats cause by preying on birds and small mammals) in areas where coyotes occur can put the cat’s life in peril. Letting small dogs out into the backyard unattended for the same reason may result in the same outcome.

There are a few strategies that can be employed to reduce the likelihood of coyotes visiting your yard in the first place. These include keeping pet dishes empty outside and securing household garbage.

Another potential source of conflict between humans and coyotes involves livestock and other domestic animals, although this is not likely to become a major issue here given the relatively few sheep, goats, and pigs. In view of the popularity of chickens though, predation might become an issue, so those who have free ranging chickens might want to consider another strategy like indoor enclosures, within which the birds can safely spend the night.

Coyotes have a highly varied diet and some of these diet items can be viewed favorably from a human perspective. For example, in addition to preying on feral cats (and pet cats as mentioned before) that have a devastating impact on backyard birds and small mammals, coyotes eat roadkill thereby helping to clean up roadsides. They also prey on white-tailed deer fawns which may help to reduce their current unhealthy population levels or at least slow down the growth in deer populations.

The current density of deer is having an adverse impact to Long Island forests by eating native plants to such an extent that many forest trees are unable to replace themselves, causing forests to lose their understory and overall diversity. One specific example is the loss of our native orchids such as pink ladies slippers which have become increasingly rare due to deer browsing.

Coyotes also prey on rabbits, opossums, reptile and bird eggs (including the eggs of the ubiquitous Canada Goose), and a variety of berries. Notably, they eat numerous rodents, the reduction of which may be positive in reducing the number of white-footed mice that play a fundamental role in the transmission of the Lyme’s disease spirochete.

Some studies have documented that coyotes often displace fox in shared habitat so one of the ecological effects scientists will look out for is the long-term impact of coyotes on fox populations. There will be interest in assessing their impact on other mammals, such as prey like woodchucks and mammalian competitors like raccoon and fox.

We’re not sure of these ecological outcomes and how precisely these ecological effects will unfold; such is the unpredictability and complexity of the natural world. Perhaps coyotes will have no impact in reducing deer numbers, no role in assisting in the recovery of Long Island’s forests, displacing foxes, or play no part in affecting Lyme’s disease. But like the wolves of Yellowstone National Park, coyotes by their mere presence, as part of the Long Island environment, WILL have an ecological impact and, likely, a broad and significant one at that.

The coyotes have begun the experiment and naturalists and ecologists look forward to seeing how it plays out both for their sake and for the two and four-legged occupants who live here.

A resident of Setauket, John Turner is conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, author of “Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Nature Guide to Long Island” and president of Alula Birding & Natural History Tours.

Johnny Cuomo

Reviewed by Melissa Arnold

Johnny Cuomo has worn a lot of hats over the years. He’s a musician, storyteller, nature lover, teacher, husband, father, and each role has had a profound impact on his life. The 46-year-old Mount Sinai resident is full of stories and lessons he’s learned while working with all kinds of children.

Most recently, he’s been focused on how important it is to treat others with compassion in his new book, Katy Didn’t. When a new bug arrives at school, the other bugs won’t accept him — that is, except for Katy the katydid, whose kindness makes all the difference. The book shares a powerful message within an easy-to-grasp and vividly illustrated story. It’s also a great read for young bug lovers, who will be thrilled with the variety of insect characters.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Cuomo about his latest venture.

Did you grow up on Long Island? What was your childhood like?

Yes, I grew up in Stony Brook. Interestingly, when I was a kid I was more interested in sports, like skateboarding, wrestling, and martial arts. I was also very interested in making music, which is a major part of my life today. My artistic interests were focused mainly on singing and playing instruments.

Did you always dream of being a writer?

Not quite. I’ve been able to do a lot of traveling throughout my life, and one of my favorite things is to learn about the folk tales of different places and cultures. I also got to work closely with Native American children on a reservation in California for two summers when I was in my early twenties, and that was very formative for me. Working with those children was what led me to go back to school.

What did you choose to study?

I got my undergraduate degree in education from Dowling College, and then I went on to do a Master’s in history at Stony Brook University.

So how did you start writing?

As a songwriter, I tend to write a tune and then think about lyrics that could go with it. That process forces me to write mini stories. Many years ago, I actually wrote a short story called Moonglow, something I’m still proud of. It gave me a foray into the publishing world. I also put together a CD sharing some original folk tales that I had written, based on the stories and cultures of the people I’d lived with.

Where did the idea for ‘Katy Didn’t’ come from?

Even after I began teaching, I was still really grounded in nature. I’m an avid birdwatcher and the natural world is a daily part of my life. If you’ve ever seen or heard a katydid during the summers here on Long Island, you know they have a very rhythmic chirping. Some people even say it sounds like a repetition of, “katy-did, katy-didn’t, katy-did, katy-didn’t.” I always thought that was clever, and one day I started to wonder if I could work that into a story for kids — that Katy didn’t do something hurtful, even when everyone else was doing it. I ended up having a dream about some of the characters and storyline. I created about 95% of the framework for the story within a week of that dream.

Tell me a bit about the illustrator. How did you find one another?

A good friend of mine has a brother named Benjamin Lowery who is an artist. We became friendly about 10 years ago. I got lucky — it turned out that Ben was working on his portfolio and was looking for stories to illustrate. He heard that I was putting this new story together and asked if he could be a part of it. It was really exciting that we both found something we needed in each other and the timing was perfect. I gave him general themes, and then he sent me sketches. He had an amazing sense of knowing what we needed. When I saw the first full-color picture he created, I said, “This is fantastic — just go for it!” We’ve really enjoyed this process and looking out for each other.

How did you publish the book? Did you pursue self-publishing or find an agent?

It was a touch-and-go process. We had an agent for a while, but it didn’t work out, and we sent it to some publishers, but that didn’t work out either. They gave great feedback, but it wasn’t quite what they were looking for. Finally, we connected with Peter Pauper Press, and they said they were going to share the book at their board meeting because they had a great feeling about it. A few days later, they sent us an email that said, “Katy did it!” It was great. They’ve been a really wonderful, straightforward company to work with. The deadline was just before all the pandemic shutdowns began, so we were very fortunate to get it published when we did.

What message do you want kids to take away from reading your book?

I want kids to know that whenever they go somewhere new, there will always be a person out there ready to welcome them. You may face struggles and tough times, but there will always be at least one person willing to help you through it and support you with a positive outlook, even if everyone else is ignoring or teasing you. It’s also an encouragement to be that person for others, whether you’re visiting the park, at someone’s house or meeting someone from a different town.

Is there a recommended age group?

Kids from age 3 to age 8 will get different things from the book, whether that’s their interest in bugs, early reading, or the message about how to treat people. It’s worth noting that the bugs in the book are drawn in a cute, but scientifically correct way, so there are so many things you can teach and do with it.

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Katy Didn’t is available at many online retailers, including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Target. For more about the book, visit www.facebook.com/katydidntbook or www.johnnycuomo.com. Teachers and librarians are welcome to contact Cuomo for information about online or in-person educational events by emailing [email protected]

Book Revue in Huntington will welcome Johnny Cuomo and Benjamin Lowery at 7 p.m. on Oct. 15 for a free, online event featuring readings, music, conversation and more. Registration is required by visiting www.bookrevue.com or by calling 631-271-1442.

Tyson
Tyson

MEET TYSON!

This week’s shelter pet is sweet Tyson who arrived at the Smithtown Animal Shelter when his dad fell ill and could no longer care for him. 

Tyson is young and energetic, he loves meeting new people and playing with any toy! He does not enjoy other animals and should be the only pet in the home.  Because of his energy level, he should only be with older children. He would love an active lifestyle or a big yard.

This handsome boy is neutered, microchipped and up to date on all his vaccines.

If you are interested in meeting Tyson, please call ahead to schedule an hour to properly interact with him in the shelter’s Meet and Greet Room. The Smithtown Animal & Adoption Shelter is located at 410 Middle Country Road, Smithtown. For more information, please call 631-360-7575 or visit www.smithtownanimalshelter.com.

METRO photo

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

When a client brings their pet into my office and states that they are drinking more and urinating in the house a few common diseases come to mind. One prominently on the list is Cushing’s disease. Cushing’s disease is caused by hyperadrenocorticism, or an overactive adrenal gland. The adrenal glands are two small glands that sit in front of the kidneys and are responsible for homeostasis. Homeostasis, as described to me back in veterinary school, is “keeping our bodies even in an uneven world.”

The adrenal glands produce hormones that regulate blood pressure, control electrolyte balance, produce precursors to the sex hormones (estrogen, testosterone), and control metabolism and immune function. The portion of the adrenal gland that causes Cushing’s disease is called the zona fasciculata. This portion of the gland is responsible for producing cortisol, or the body’s natural cortisone.

Cushing’s disease is most often found in Poodles, Boston Terriers, Pomeranians, Maltese, Beagles, Dachshunds, and Cocker Spaniels.

Normal concentration of cortisol is imperative in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Cortisol also plays a crucial role in the immune system by acting as a natural anti-inflammatory. The overproduction of cortisol leads to the symptoms associated with Cushing’s disease. These symptoms include increased thirst and urination, increased appetite, hair loss along the back, abdominal distension, muscle weakness, increased risk of common infections associated with suppression of the immune system such as skin, or urinary tract infections.

Cushing’s disease is much more common in dogs than cats. Any dog can develop Cushing’s disease but breeds more at risk are Poodles, Boston Terriers, Pomeranians, Maltese, Beagles, Dachshunds, and Cocker Spaniels to name a few.

Diagnosis of Cushing’s disease is made with bloodwork. Screening tests will usually reveal an increase in certain liver enzymes. There may be other changes but the hallmark is an elevation in liver enzymes. The definitive diagnosis is made with what is termed an “adrenal stress test.” Basically, a baseline sample of blood is taken, followed by medication to stress the adrenal glands. Additional samples are taken to measure how the adrenal glands respond. Additional testing such as ultrasound or MRI are recommended but not required for diagnosis.

Once a diagnosis of Cushing’s disease is made medication is dispensed. Older medications such as mitotane or ketoconazole are still used but have more side effects. A newer medication called trilostane is much safer. Follow up bloodwork is used to monitor treatment and either adjust dosages, or consider other medications.

If your pet (especially your dog) is drinking more and urinating more bring them to your veterinarian right away. Cushing’s may be the cause and early diagnosis and intervention is always most successful.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine. Have a question for the vet? Email it to [email protected] and see his answer in an upcoming column.

MEET MIA!

This week’s shelter pet is Mia, a 2-year-old brindled beauty currently waiting at the Smithtown Animal Shelter for her knight in shining armor.

Mia is a lab/pit mix with a goofball spirit and a loving personality. Left to grow up as a yard dog, she did not receive the love and attention she deserved as a puppy and needs an experienced home where she can learn what it is to be a normal dog with a loving family. She is as playful and affectionate as they come and believes herself to be a 70 pound lap dog!

Mia is spayed, microchipped and up to date on all her vaccines.

If you are interested in meeting Mia, please call ahead to schedule an hour to properly interact with her in the shelter’s Meet and Greet Room. The Smithtown Animal & Adoption Shelter is located at 410 Middle Country Road, Smithtown. For more information, please call 631-360-7575 or visit www.smithtownanimalshelter.com.

Ducky

MEET DUCKY!

This week’s shelter pet is Ducky, a male domestic short hair mix who is estimated to be around one year old. This black beauty was brought to the Smithtown Animal shelter as a stray by a good Samaritan and he’s ready to live in a purr-manent home where he can be the king of the house.

Ducky is initially a shy fella, but once given a bit of affection, he’ll nudge your hand and ask for more! This sweet cat deserves a quiet home without any children or dogs and a loving furrever family that will help him come out of his shell. He is neutered, microchipped and up to date on all his vaccines.

If you are interested in meeting Ducky, please call ahead to schedule an hour to properly interact with him in the shelter’s Meet and Greet Room. The Smithtown Animal & Adoption Shelter is located at 410 Middle Country Road, Smithtown. For more information, please call 631-360-7575 or visit www.smithtownanimalshelter.com.

We could all use a little humor right now and the Reboli Center for Art and History’s playful new exhibit Wild and Wonderful by artist Vicki Sawyer may be the perfect inspiration. The show opens Sept. 3 and runs through Nov. 1.

Vicki Sawyer is a nationally recognized fine art painter whose whimsical animal and bird portraits have been a sensation. After a three year interval since her last exhibit at the Reboli Center, the artist is back with twenty five new paintings created especially for this unique exhibit.

Sawyer now lives in Franklin, TN but before her move, she was a resident of Stony Brook for fifteen years. During the time she resided on Long Island, she worked with Eva Glaser and Helen Del Guercio doing faux finishes and then began painting commissioned murals. She is one of the artists who attended an outdoor class taught by Joe Reboli. In that workshop, Sawyer says that she learned about being aware of the darkest darks and lightest lights. She applies that knowledge to her paintings today.

Sawyer’s current paintings spring from a walk a few years ago, when it occurred to her that if birds could build nests, they could make hats. For the last 11 years that walk has been her inspiration for her highly successful and collectible bird and animal portraits. She has been quoted as saying that her works are seriously painted, but whimsical. These portraits combine her love of nature and her goal of evoking feelings of peace, joy, and often humor.

Sawyer has painted more than 2,500 paintings of birds and other animals wearing natural hats! Her images have been so popular that they grace numerous products carried in the Reboli Center Design Shop. Vicki Sawyer’s connections to our community, to her many friends here, to Joe Reboli as well as her remarkable portraits make for a fascinating and entertaining exhibit.

The gallery will host a free Zoom Third Friday event with a conversation between Sawyer and Reboli Center President Lois Reboli on Sept. 18. Those who wish to be a part of the Zoom call and who are not presently a part of the email list of the Reboli Center, should contact the gallery by calling 631-751-7707 or by emailing the Center at [email protected] to receive a link to the event.

In conjunction with Wild and Wonderful, an additional exhibit in the History Gallery will highlight the many educational activities and conservation efforts of the Four Harbors Audubon Society.

The Reboli Center for Art and History, located at 64 Main Street in Stony Brook, is dedicated to preserving the legacy of artist Joseph Reboli and to foster a meaningful understanding and appreciation for culture and the traditional arts through exhibitions and educational programs.

Operating hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.ReboliCenter.org.