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It’s easy to overlook the impact that local school boards have on our community. 

Yet, the decisions made by these boards directly influence the quality of education our children receive, shaping not just their future, but the future of our communities. As we approach another election season, we must recognize the importance of voting for local school board members, for the sake of our children, pillars of our collective future.

Local school boards wield significant power in determining educational policies, budgets and curriculum standards. They are responsible for hiring superintendents, setting district priorities and ensuring that our schools are safe and conducive to learning. The individuals we elect to these boards will make decisions that affect the daily lives of our children, from the quality of their teachers to the resources available in their classrooms.

When we vote for school board members, we are not just casting a ballot — we are making a commitment to our children’s education and well-being. A strong, well-funded and innovative school system can provide our children with the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to succeed in an ever-changing world. 

Conversely, neglecting to participate in these elections can lead to underfunded schools, outdated curriculums and a lack of necessary support for both students and teachers.

By voting for dedicated and knowledgeable school board members, we ensure that our children are given the best possible start in life, equipping them with the tools they need to build a brighter future for all of us.

Moreover, active participation in school board elections fosters a sense of community and civic responsibility. It sends a powerful message to our children about the value of democracy and the importance of being engaged in local governance. When they see us prioritizing their education and future, they learn the importance of advocacy and the impact of collective action.

In addition to voting, it is crucial that we hold school board members accountable. Attend board meetings, stay informed about the issues at hand and communicate with board members to ensure they are meeting the needs of our students. A well-informed and engaged community can make a significant difference in the quality of education provided.

Not nearly enough residents vote in school board elections. Please learn about the candidates and the issues by referring to the relevant TBR stories or by going to your district’s website, then get out and vote your choice next Tuesday, May 21. 

Just as importantly, voters will be asked to approve school budgets for the upcoming year, 2024-25.

Your vote counts. 

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By Shannon L. Malone, Esq.

Earlier in our series with respect to traffic infractions, we discussed proposed legislation that would increase the number of points associated with dangerous driving. These provisions would add point penalties to violations that presently have none. In this article, we will explore the existing Driver Violation Point System and provide readers with a quick reference guide illustrating the number of points associated with speeding violations in New York State. Understanding this system will empower you to make informed decisions about your driving habits and potential consequences. 

It is crucial to remember that if you accumulate 11 points on your driver’s license within 18 months, your driver’s license will be suspended. This is a significant consequence that can obviously disrupt your daily life. Exceptions to this point are rare. Nonetheless, you should consult an experienced attorney if you find yourself in this situation. Additionally, you must pay a Driver Responsibility fee if you accumulate six or more points on your driving record within 18 months.

Once 18 months have passed from the violation date, the points for that violation no longer count toward your total. However, the points do remain on your overall driving record, and your insurance company may use these points to increase your premium.

How Your Point Total is Calculated

Points are added to your driving record based on the date of the traffic violation, not the conviction. The point total is calculated by adding the points for violations occurring within the last 18 months.

Out-of-State Convictions

Suppose you are convicted of a traffic violation in another state, like Connecticut, New Jersey, or Florida. In that case, points are not added to your New York State driving record. Interestingly, however, if the violation occurred in Canada, specifically in Ontario or Quebec points are added because New York State has a reciprocal agreement with these provinces.

Insurance Premiums

Insurance companies have their own point systems and can increase premiums based on your driving records. Insurance companies almost invariably increase your premium if you are convicted of a moving violation such as speeding. Other moving violations that may affect your insurance premium are passing a stop sign, running a red light, and failing to yield the right of way.  For these reasons, it is always a good idea to consult a lawyer when you receive a summons for a moving violation, particularly a speeding ticket.

Check Your Points

New York State DMV’s “MyDMV” service allows users to check their points on their New York State driver’s license. Taking a DMV-approved Point and Insurance Reduction Program (PIRP) course (usually online) will help prevent you from losing your license if you accrue 11 or more points on your driving record. Four points are ‘subtracted’ to calculate a suspension if you have 11 or more points. The tickets/points do not physically come off your driving record, but this system can potentially save you 10 percent on your automobile liability and collision insurance premiums. This offers a glimmer of hope and control in managing your points and insurance premiums.

Shannon L. Malone, Esq. is an Associate Attorney at Glynn Mercep Purcell and Morrison LLP in Setauket. She graduated from Touro Law, where she wrote and served as an editor of the Touro Law Review. Ms. Malone is a proud Stony Brook University alumna.

Camila dos Santos Photo courtesy of CSHL

By Daniel Dunaief

People often think of and study systems or organs in the body as discrete units. 

In a healthy human body, however, these organs and systems work together, sometimes producing signals that affect other areas.

Recently, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Associate Professor Camila dos Santos and graduate students Samantha Henry and Steven Lewis, along with former postdoctoral researcher Samantha Cyrill, published a study in the journal Nature Communications that showed a link in a mouse model between persistent bacterial urinary tract infections and changes in breast tissue.

The study provides information about how a response in one area of the body could affect another far from an infection and could provide women with the kind of information that could inform the way they monitor their health.

To be sure, dos Santos and her graduate students didn’t study the processes in humans, which could be different than they are in mice.

Indeed, they are in the process of establishing clinical studies to check if UTIs in women drive breast alterations.

The body’s response

In this research, the scientists demonstrated that an unresolved urinary tract infection itself wasn’t causing changes in breast tissue, but that the body’s reaction to the presence of the bacteria triggered these changes.

By treating the urinary tract infections, Henry and Lewis showed that breast cells returned to their normal state.

Further, when they didn’t treat the UTI but blocked the molecule TIMP1, which causes collagen deposits and milk duct enlargements, the breast cells returned to their normal state.

The TIMP1 role is “probably the main eureka moment,” said Lewis, who is an MD/ PhD student at Stony Brook University. “It explains how an infection in the bladder can change a faraway tissue.”

Lewis suggested that collagen, among other factors, changes the density of breast tissue. When women get a mammography, doctors are looking for changes in the density of their breasts.

Taking a step back from the link, these graduate students and dos Santos considered whether changes in the breast tissue during an infection could provide an evolutionary benefit.

“From an evolutionary standpoint, there should be some adaptive advantage,” suggested Henry, who is earning her PhD in genetics at Stony Brook University and will defend her thesis in July. Speculating on what this might be, she suggested the mammary gland might change in response to an infection to protect milk production during lactation, enabling a mother to feed her young.

Epidemiological studies

A link between persistent UTIs and breast cancer could show up in epidemiological studies.

Dos Santos and collaborators are exploring such questions in the context of European data and are working with US collaborators to collect this information.

In addition, dos Santos believes women should consider how other ongoing threats to their overall health impact their bodies. Women with clinical depression, for example, have worse prognoses in terms of disease. Humans have health threats beyond UTIs that could predispose them to developing cancer, dos Santos said.

Division of labor

Henry and Lewis took over a study that Samantha Cyrill, the third co-first author on the paper started. When Cyrill finished her postdoctoral work, Henry and Lewis “put on their capes and said, ‘We are going to take this to the end line.’ They are incredible people,” said dos Santos.

They each contributed to the considerable work involved.

Henry primarily analyzed the single cell RNA sequencing data, specifically identifying changes in the epithelial compartment. Gina Jones, a visiting CSHL undergraduate research program student, and Lewis also contributed to this.

Henry also participated in TIMP1 neutralizing antibody treatment in post-lactation involution mice, contributing to tissue collection and staining.

Working with Cyrill and Henry, Lewis contributed to the mouse work, including experiments like neutralizing TIMP1 and CSF3. Lewis also worked with Cyrill on the UTI infections in the animals and with Henry in processing tissues for single cell RNA sequencing and assisted Henry on the sequencing analysis.

While this result is compelling and offers an opportunity to study how an infection in an area of the body can trigger changes in another, dos Santos recognized the inherent risk in a new project and direction that could have either been disconnected or a been a dead end.

“It was an incredible risk,” said dos Santos. She was rejected from at least four different funding opportunities because the research is “so out there,” she said. She tapped into foundations and to CSHL for support.

Back stories

A resident of Brooklyn, Lewis was born in Queens and raised in Scarsdale. He joined the dos Santos lab in March of 2021. One of the appeals of the dos Santos lab was that he wanted to understand how life history events drive disease, especially breast cancer.

A big Mets fan, Lewis, whose current favorite payer is Pete Alonso, is planning to run his third marathon this fall.

Lewis is dating Sofia Manfredi, who writes for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and accepted an Emmy award on behalf of the staff.

Lewis considers himself Manfredi’s “biggest cheerleader,” while he appreciates how well she listens to him and asks important questions about his work.

As for Henry, she grew up in Greenport. She joined the lab in May of 2020 and is planning to defend her thesis in July.

Her father Joseph Henry owns JR Home Improvements and her mother Christine Thompson worked as a waitress and a bartender in various restaurants.

Henry is married to Owen Roberts, who is a civil engineer and works in the Empire State Building for HNTB as a civil engineer, where he focuses on traffic.

Henry hopes to live in Boston after she graduates. She’s adopted the rooting interests of her husband, who is a fan of Beantown teams, and will support the Bruins and the Celtics. A lifelong Yankees fan, however, Henry, who watched the Bronx Bombers with her father growing up, draws the line at supporting the “Sawx.”

As for the work, Henry and Lewis are excited to see what the lab discovers in the next steps.

“I do think this work is extremely informative, defining a relationship between an infection, UTI, and the mammary gland that has not previously been appreciated,” Henry explained.

“This provides information to the public,” said Henry. “I always think it is worth knowing how different events may impact your body.”

Chimichurrie Chickpea Salad

By Heidi Sutton

With spring and warmer weather comes salad season, offering a perfect canvas for creating refreshing meals centered around tasty greens, juicy tomatoes and chickpeas. A rich source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, chickpeas are high in protein and makes an excellent replacement for meat in many vegetarian and vegan dishes. Give your salads an update and create tasty meals fit for the season like this Chimichurri Chickpea Salad and Mediterranean Orzo Salad, courtesy of Culinary.net.

Chimichurri Chickpea Salad

Chimichurrie Chickpea Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

1 cup fresh cilantro

2/3 cup fresh parsley

2 tablespoons dried oregano

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2/3 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 can (14 1/2 ounces) chickpeas, drained

1 bag baby kale mix

1  cup cherry tomatoes, diced

1 medium avocado, diced

4 tablespoons Avocado Ranch Dressing

DIRECTIONS:

In food processor, combine cilantro, parsley, oregano, garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Pulse until sauce is smooth. 

Place chimichurri sauce in small bowl with chickpeas; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight, if possible. 

Divide kale, tomatoes and avocado between four bowls. Top each bowl evenly with marinated chickpeas. Drizzle with avocado ranch dressing and serve.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS: 

2 cups cooked orzo

2 mini cucumbers, thinly sliced

3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered

1/2 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup arugula

1/4 cup pitted Kalamata and green olives, cut in half

1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/3 cup Garlic Vinaigrette & Marinade, plus additional for serving (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

In large bowl, combine orzo, cucumbers, tomatoes, chickpeas, arugula, olives and feta cheese. Toss with vinaigrette. Serve with additional vinaigrette, if desired.

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By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

It’s hard to believe that we are in the midst of another college graduation season. As an educator, I have valued my time teaching college and graduate students.

Since the pandemic, educating college students has changed radically. Their academic skills could be stronger, as well as their critical thinking and analytical writing skills. However, I have still found them open to new ideas and broader perspectives on their view of the world. Like many of my colleagues, I am concerned about their tendency towards isolation and their disconnectedness from their peers.

This graduation season has been challenging with the college student protests around the country. Unfortunately, these protests have further polarized our nation.

The right to protest is every American’s right, whether we support the issue or not. What is important for those who protest to know and practice is peace and nonviolence at all costs. Hateful speech is not nonviolent; provocative speech often spurs on violence. In my Social Science classes and Graduate School classes we discussed the war in the Middle East and the senseless loss of innocent life, among the Israelis and the Palestinians. War never resolves conflict; it only perpetuates more violence and hate. 

Teaching Social Science and Graduate School Social Work provided a forum at the end of the semester to begin this important conversation. As always, I urged my students to be sociologically mindful and when it comes to this very sensitive issue to respond, not to react.

Graduates, as you continue your journey, do not let the social filters of our time enable bigotry, exclusivity and social injustice. Always speak up and work for human rights. Try to realize that being human and sensitive to others is more important than any successful academic record. Try showing compassion and understanding rooted in justice. 

May a kind word, a reassuring touch and a warm smile be yours every day of your life. Remember the sunshine when the storm seems unending. Teach love to those who only know hate. And let that love embrace you as you continue in the world.

Don’t be blinded by those who tend to use shame, blame, guilt and religion to shackle people down and divide them. Set people free with your respect and non-judgmental way.

May your moral compass be grounded in respect for all human beings no matter what their color, their race, their creed or sexual orientation. May this compass guide you on a path that is committed to working for peace and social justice. As Gandhi once said, “be the change you hope for the world.”

Congratulations college graduates of 2024. Thank you for making the world a little richer, a little brighter, and a little bit more hopeful.

Father Francis Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

Anthony S. Fauci, MD, addressing the RSOM graduating Class of 2024. Credit: Arthur Fredericks

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Speaking in a front of a receptive, appreciative and celebratory audience of 125 graduates of the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University who gave him a standing ovation before and after his commencement address, Dr Anthony Fauci, former Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, shared some thoughts on the hard lessons learned from the last four years.

Dr. Fauci currently serves as Distinguished University Professor at the Georgetown University School of Medicine and the McCourt School of Public Policy and also serves as Distinguished Senior Scholar at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law.

“I speak not only of lessons we have learned that can help us prepare for the next public health challenge, but, more importantly, of lessons that will apply to your future professional and personal experiences that are far removed from pandemic outbreaks,” Fauci said, after complimenting the class on persevering in their training despite the challenges and losses.

To start with, he suggested these new doctors expect the unexpected. In the early phase of the pandemic, the virus revealed multiple secrets, “some of which caught us somewhat by surprise,” Fauci said. “As well prepared as we thought we were, we learned that SARS-Cov2 is often transmitted from people who are infected but have no symptoms.”

Additionally, the virus continually mutated, forming more transmissable variants that caused illness even in those who had already contracted the virus.

“Each revelation not only humbled us, but served as a stark reminder that, when facing novel and unanticipated challenges in life, as you all will I promise, any predictions we might make about what will happen next or how the situation will unfold must always be provisional,” Fauci said.

Dealing with these challenges requires being open-minded and flexible in assessing situations as new information emerges.

He cautioned the new doctors and scientists to beware of the insidious nature of anti science.

Even as doctors have used data and evidence learning to gain new insights and as the stepping stones of science, anti science became “louder and more entrenched over time. This phenomenon is deeply disturbing” as it undermines evidence-based medicine and sends the foundation of the social order down a slippery slope.

Even as science was under attack, so, too, were scientists. “During the past four years, we have witnessed an alarming increase in the mischaracterization, distortion and even vilification of solid evidence-based findings and even of scientists themselves,” Fauci continued.

Mixing with these anti science notions were conspiracy theories, which created public confusion and eroded trust in evidence-based public health principals.

“This became crystal clear as we fought to overcome false rumors about the mRNA Covid vaccines during the roll out” of vaccines which Dr. Peter Igarashi, Dean of the Renaissance School of Medicine estimated in his introduction for Dr. Fauci saved more than 20 million lives in their first year of availability.

“I can confirm today that Bill Gates [the former CEO of Microsoft] and I did not put chips in the Covid vaccines,” Fauci said. “And, no, Covid vaccines are not responsible for more deaths than Covid.”

The worldwide disparagement of scientific evidence is threatening other aspects of public health, he said, as parents are opting out of immunizing their children, which is leading to the recent clusters of measles cases, he added.

Elements of society are “driven by a cacophony of falsehoods, lies and conspiracy theories that get repeated often enough that after a while, they become unchallenged,” he said. That leads to what he described as a “normalization of untruths.”

Fauci sees this happening on a daily basis, propagated by information platforms, social media and enterprises passing themselves off as news organizations. With doctors entering a field in which evidence and data-driven conclusions inform their decisions, they need to “push back on these distortions of truth and reality.”

He appealed to the graduates to accept a collective responsibility not to accept the normalization of untruths passively, which enables propaganda and the core principals of a just social order to begin to erode.

Fauci exhorted students to “seek and listen to opinions that differ from your own” and to analyze information which they have learned to do in medical school.

“Our collective future truly is in your hands,” Fauci said.

Fauci also urged these doctors and scientists to take care of their patients and to advance knowledge for the “good of humankind.”

Pictured above, from left to right: Simons Foundation President David Spergel, Jim and Marilyn Simon, Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis and Governor Kathy Hochul. Photo by John Griffin/Stony Brook University

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief,
Publisher

“What can I do? I’m only one person.”

How many times have we heard that lament? People excuse themselves from doing what they could, since everyone has some skills, to rectify a situation or help a cause by falling back on that one-liner. Elsewhere in these papers, we tell you about one man (and woman) who made an enormous difference in the world. Of course, it helps if you are a genius. 

Jim Simons was a genius. I knew him a little. He lived in Old Field and was a self-deprecating genius, except for the time he referred to himself during a talk he was giving to a small group as “Midas.” And he was right; he turned his understanding of mathematics into investments that made unprecedented amounts of money in much the same way King Midas, in Greek mythology, turned everything he touched into pure gold.

I remember, years ago, when I was traveling in Australia and I walked by a newsstand. Some magazines were propped up with their front pages displayed. I had to stop and stare for a moment because there was Jim’s face above the headline, “Highest income earner in the world” that year. It seems he had grossed four billion dollars, if I recall correctly. That was after he founded Renaissance Technologies in, of all places, beautiful downtown East Setauket.

If you want to make the world a better place, it helps to be a genius and to have fabulous sums of money. But that’s just the beginning of the story. 

As Jim once said, “It’s really hard giving away money…well.” He spent the last third of his adult life figuring out how and to whom he and his wife, Marilyn, should be donating funds.

The philanthropy I am most familiar with is Math for America. Being a mathematician, it’s not a surprise Jim was most concerned early on about how math was taught in the schools. Data revealed that the answer was “not very well,” or at least, not as well as it could be taught.

How to proceed?

Jim got his arms around the problem by starting with math teachers. He founded a nonprofit organization to support NYC public school teachers that eventually turned into a four-year fellowship program to increase math and science teachers’ skills.

“MfA’s role is valuing excellence in teaching and doing everything we can to keep great teachers in the classroom,” Jim explained. Part of the problem was the low pay. Math teachers often got hired away by business and industry, leaving a void in the classrooms.

He outlined the five core beliefs of his organization.

First was that teaching is a true profession, giving teachers enormous respect and financing.

Second was that great teachers are always learning. They strive to improve their depth of content knowledge, their expertise in teaching, and their ability to teach to the strengths of every student in their classroom.

Third is the necessity for deep collaboration within  a community of fellow experts to achieve ongoing growth.

Fourth is that regular evaluation of teachers is required to advance the profession.

And finally, fifth is by honoring greatness in the profession. That is achieved by celebrating, promoting and advocating for the best teachers, which raises prestige and attracts the best possible candidates to a career in the classroom.

Here are some impressive numbers that have resulted from that single organization, Math for America, founded 2004.

There are 1078 total teachers that have participated across NYC. Some 125 professional development courses have been offered by MfA in 2022-2023 that are focused on topics of equity and inclusion in the classrooms.

82 percent of MfA teachers have led professional development for their school colleagues.

400+ high quality STEM-focused courses have resulted each semester of which 75 percent have been led by MfA teachers.

60 percent of MfA teachers in NYC said they might have left teaching during 2022-2023 if not for their fellowships.

MfA has been recognized by the legislature of NYS and the U.S.Congress.

Thank you, Jim Simons.

Bunnie XO

MEET BUNNIE XO!

This week’s featured shelter pet is Bunnie XO, a 5-year-old bully/mastiff mix who was abandoned in a park with her (presumed) boyfriend, Jelly Roll, but is now safe at the Smithtown Animal Shelter.

Bunnie XO warms up quickly to all new people, gently nudges for attention and treats and loves to play. This sweet lady was obviously used for breeding and discarded. While she and Jelly enjoy seeing each other, they are not bonded and she would love to be in a home that will dote on her and show her affection all day long. 

The shelter staff is still learning about her as she settles in and reveals her true personality but they assume she will accept calmer dogs (Jelly is very laid back). If you are interested in meeting Bunnie XO, please call ahead to schedule an hour to properly interact with her in a domestic setting.

The Town of Smithtown Animal & Adoption Shelter is located at 410 Middle Country Road, Smithtown. Visitor hours are Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Sundays and Wednesday evenings by appointment only). For more information, call 631-360-7575 or visit www.townofsmithtownanimalshelter.com.

A river otter caught on a trail camera in Bellport. Image courtesy of Luke Ormand

By John L. Turner

John Turner

I slung on the backpack, shut the car door and walked off quickly, fueled by excitement and expectation. After  a brisk walk on a shady forest path, bordered by a few small fields hinting at the property’s past farm use, I reached my destination — a wooden observation platform providing sweeping views of a freshwater pond situated within the North Fork’s Arshamomaque Preserve. I immediately began a binocular scan of the water and the far shore for any sign of movement revealing their presence. Nothing. Scanned for a few more minutes and nothing. I soon fall into a pattern of picking up the binoculars and looking first along the water surface and then the vegetated far shore. This goes on for an hour. Still no action. 

I learned a long time ago that nature is not a zoo and the comings and goings of animals are never done to please us humans, but always in response to their needs. So I will see them, if I see them at all, on their schedule. I continue to patiently sit, soaking in the beauty of the warm sunshine, bolstered by a large cup of strong coffee and a cinnamon-raisin bagel. 

 I was also enjoying the many marsh mallow shrubs blooming in profusion amidst the abundance of cattails ringing the pond. The flowers of this species border on the spectacular — three to five inches across, deep but bright pink petals with a red throat or base, and a prominent tower containing both the stamens and the stigmata. This species is related to the plant whose roots were once the source of that delicious confectioneries used to make s’mores — marshmallows.  

Suddenly, there was rippled movement along the far shore. It took me a moment to process what I was looking at but it was a family of  four river otters (Lontra canadensis) — two adults and two pups — weaving in and out of the wetland plants.  I enjoyed them for about 15 seconds until they all broke back into cover of the cattails at the eastern edge of the pond. A minute or two later they reappeared this time swimming along the wooded shoreline before doubling back to the cattails. 

What I was witnessing is a small part of a welcome recovery of the species taking place over several decades now, as an increasing number of otters are colonizing suitable wetland habitat on Long Island, after decades of their dearth. According to Paul Connor’s definitive Mammals of Long Island published by the New York State Museum in 1971, otters were thought to be extirpated from Long Island in the latter part of the 19th century. He states that Daniel Denton in his 1670 description of Long Island mammals noted the presence of otters, but goes on to mention that more than 170 years later J.E. DeKay declared the species extirpated from Long Island. 

Through the 20th century otters were occasionally seen or reported but there was no sense of a sustained recovery of the species on Long Island. Connor reports no sightings in all the field work (conducted over several field seasons in the late 1960’s) that formed the basis for his monograph. This began to change in the first few years of the 21st century when sightings of otters became more commonplace. One of the first sightings  was near the well-known Shu Swamp sanctuary in Mill Neck, Nassau County. 

Mike Bottini, a well-known Long Island naturalist and founder of the Long Island River Otter Project, has studied this recovery as well as other aspects of otter ecology and biology and published an informative published paper investigating the status of river otter in 2008. He states: “This survey estimates that there are at least eight river otters inhabiting Long Island: four on the north shore of Nassau County, one in the Nissequogue River watershed, one in the west end of the Peconic Estuary, one on the south shore, and one in the Southold-Shelter Island-East Hampton area.” Remarkably, a mere decade later otter signs were found in 26 watersheds; the recovery was well underway.

Three years later, in 2021, Mike noted: “otter home ranges included all the watersheds on the north shore from Oyster Bay east to Orient, the Peconic River watershed and a significant portion of the Peconic Estuary, and two watersheds on the south shore.”  Painting a rosy picture, Mike concludes: “Much excellent otter habitat on Long Island remains unoccupied, especially on the south shore. 

In addition to the obvious confirmation formed by actual sightings or finding their tracks in mud or snow, the use of latrines or “otter bathrooms” by this highly aquatic mammal is one of the ways researchers use to gain a better sense of their distribution on Long Island. For reasons that are not entirely clear, otters often defecate (known as scat) in upland areas adjacent to the waterways, these latrine sites thought to be used to communicate information. 

I have found their latrines in a few places, the closest being at Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket on both sides of the northern pond. Their scat often contains the remains of scales and bones of the fish they prey on, and such was the case by a recent inspection of the latrines at the park — scales and delicate fish bones were prevalent in the sushi meals the otter was consuming. While otters favor fish, they are opportunistic and will eat frogs, turtles, crayfish (yes, we do have crayfish species on Long Island), and freshwater clams and mussels. 

Otters are carnivores and are members of the weasel family whose other Long Island members include, according to Connor, Mink, Long-tailed weasel, and perhaps Short-tailed weasel. Further afield in the North American continent we have badgers, the federally endangered Black-footed ferret, and the famous and remarkable wolverine. Thirteen otter species occur around the globe. 

As evidenced by my North Fork experience and several other accounts, otters are reproducing on Long Island with their pups presumably helping to fuel the resurgence.  As their young (typically between 2-5 pups are born) are quite helpless at birth, being hairless and blind, they grow and develop in dens which provide some degree of protection from the elements. The dens are in close proximity to the water and may, in some cases, be connected to it. As of this writing I don’t know of anyone who has conclusively discovered an otter den here. 

The use of remote cameras installed in the field at sites likely to be utilized by otters have proven instrumental in learning some new streams and creeks otters are frequenting. Luke Ormand, a staff member in the Town of Brookhaven’s Division of Land Management, has placed several cameras in numerous locations in Brookhaven Town that have been successful in recording otters. With these cameras, otters have been confirmed in the Carmans River watershed and the Motts Creek drainage system in Bellport.

A significant damper on the continued recolonization and expansion of river otters on Long Island are motor vehicles, as otters are sometimes struck and killed. An otter was recently struck on Jericho Turnpike near the famous bull statue in Smithtown and the total number of road killed otters recorded for Long Island stands at 29 animals. 

Bottini notes that the peak time is between March and May both when males are searching for females in estrus (ready to mate) and yearling individuals are striking out on their own. The likelihood of being hit by a vehicle is especially high in places where otters are forced to cross a road that spans a stream containing too narrow a culvert or a dam where the dam is under the bridge; the dam face prevents downstream or upstream access, forcing the otter to climb up the banks and lope across the dangerous roadway.  Solutions involve  the placement of stacked cinder blocks to form a ramp or aluminum ramps which otters can negotiate.  

I had the pleasure of working with the aforementioned Mike and Luke one day a few years ago in constructing a cinder block ramp along a dam face on the Little Seatuck Creek in East Moriches. Camera footage soon showed otter use of the ramp although the two otters in the area illustrated different personalities; one otter immediately took to using it while the other was quite hesitant.  

Mike notes that otters are “ambassadors of wetlands” and given their broad appeal and popularity this is true. Who doesn’t remember wildlife films on Disney and other shows depicting otters tobogganing in the snow, frolicking about in what appears to be joyous play? Perhaps this iconic and charismatic species can help to generate public support on Long Island in better protecting our waterways — important habitats — which sustain so many species. 

 Let me end by stating the obvious: you “otter” take time out of your busy schedule to look for these furry, very attractive ambassadors. But please drive slowly to your intended destination, all the while keeping an eye out for a sleek, rich brown animal loping across the road.  

A resident of Setauket, author John L. 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.

Pixabay photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Anderson Valley, an AVA (1983) grape-growing area west of Ukiah and north of Sonoma in Mendocino County, California, continues to garner praise as one of the premier regions for Pinot Noir and is one of California’s coolest climates. The valley is almost 15 miles long, with virtually no flat land and hills ranging from 80 to 1,300 feet in elevation and runs to the northwest parallel to the coast till it opens to the Pacific just south of Mendocino.

In 1851, a settler named Walter Anderson discovered the valley after getting separated from his hunting group, and it was named after him. Commercial wine production did not begin until the 1960s, when Donald Edmeades planted a vineyard to Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, French Colombard, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Husch Vineyards, established in 1971, was the first to plant Pinot Noir grapes in the Knoll Vineyard, in Anderson Valley.

Anderson Valley has almost 100 vineyards planted on 2,457 acres. The grapes grown are 69 percent Pinot Noir and 21 percent Chardonnay. Secondary grapes include Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Merlot, Sémillon, and Sauvignon Blanc. In addition to Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley produces some of California’s best sparkling wines… Scharffenberger Cellars, Handley Cellars, Navarro Vineyards, and Roederer Estate, to name but a few.

Recently tasted Pinot Noirs are…

2019 Domaine Anderson “Pinot Noir” Anderson Valley, California. (Made with organic grapes) Bouquet of dried herbs, black cherry, plum, and mulberry with flavors of mushrooms, bittersweet chocolate, and hints of smoke, and pomegranate. The aftertaste begs for another glass.

2021 Crosby Roamann Pinot Noir “Fiadh Vineyard” Anderson Valley, California. (Fiadh is an Irish girl’s name meaning “wild” and “untamed” like this small vineyard site.) Aged 18 months in new oak barrels. Ruby color with an earthy bouquet of mushrooms, black olives, leather, and tobacco. Subtle flavors of cola, cinnamon, vanilla, and dark berries with some tannin.

2021 Crosby Roamann Pinot Noir “Annie’s Old Vines” Sonoma Coast, California. (Aged 18 months in used oak barrels) Light cherry colored with a bouquet bursting with red fruit: cherries, cranberries, and strawberries. Flavors of jam, black pepper, black plums, cocoa, and mint with notes of roses and sandalwood. Very smooth finish and long aftertaste. 

2019 Handley Cellars “Pinot Noir,” Anderson Valley, California. Aromas of boysenberry, cherries, and dried fruit with a hint of bay and eucalyptus. Medium-bodied with plums, oak, jam, and some tannin to lose. Vibrant aftertaste with notes of clove and cardamom.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected].