Category Archives: Wildlife

Fishing town popular with Kitsap anglers struggling

Raise your hand if you were in Sekiu this past weekend.

On our annual fill-the-freezer excursion to the little fishing town two miles west of Clallam Bay (19 miles East of Neah Bay), it seemed one in every six people had a Kitsap connection.

Sekiu shrinks and swells on the tides of anglers who come and go with the fish runs. In winter it dwindles to a handful of residents who probably know each other way too well (some escape to the warmth and anonymity of Arizona). During salmon season, though, the hillsides are chock-a-block with RVs perched above the bay, barely tucked in from the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Canada within spitting distance.

The accommodations are nothing fancy, but the view is spectacular. Bottle green water, sparkling with beds of kelp that sway and twirl in the currents. Mist shrouded forests and strange rock formations, like Mussolini Rock, with the tuft of trees growing on its top looks like the Italian dictator’s military cap. There are seals, sea birds and the occasional porpoise or whale passing through. On this visit we saw a sea elephant about two miles from shore bobbing on the surface long enough to get a gulp of air then sliding down into the water.

At dawn, fishermen (and the occasional woman) lug on their muckboots, fill their thermoses and fire up their motors, lighting out on the heaving waters like a swarm of bees. If the bite is on, they’ll limit out before noon and spend the rest of the day swapping fish stories. Word of how deep to fish and where they’re biting spreads like a virus. If there is a #Sekiu on Twitter, it’s overkill.

A glamorous resort town this is not. The docks are splattered with excrement from great clouds of seagulls that flock like brazen thugs around the fish cleaning stations, mewling for a handout of guts. The smell is distinctly horrific, sometimes tinged with a pleasant waft of salt air from the open water.

The anglers don’t seem to care about the smell. For many the trip to Sekiu is an annual ritual, like summer camp for adults. When they’re not fishing, you might find them tending the smoker or vacuum-sealing their catch. The anglers drop plenty of dough on Sekiu. They eat in the handful of restaurants, buy bait, tackle and ice at the stores, and pay for moorage and RV or tent spaces.

Those who live here year ’round to operate the eateries and rustic resorts make much of their annual income during these few frenzied weeks when the fish are running. The recession hit them hard, but the town had been struggling years before the bottom dropped out of the housing market.

On the west side of town, a decaying dock is all that’s left of a once bustling fish cannery from decades past. Here and there are abandoned, boarded up buildings. The properties that remain open are sagging, a little seedy. The fishermen don’t care, but the symptoms don’t bode well for Sekiu.

Challenges facing resort owners are often invisible to visitors. For example, there was the storm of 2006 that took out the parking lot of Van Riper’s Resort. Repairing the damage took a quarter million dollars worth of fill.

There’s another problem, age, not of the properties but the owners. Barbara, who owns The Breakwater restaurant, is in her mid-60s. She has a 5-year-old granddaughter to raise and a grandson to help through college, so she’s not actively looking for a buyer. But the place has been listed since before her husband died four years ago.

In the old days, The Breakwater had no “off season.” If it wasn’t the fishermen, it was the loggers, who lined up outside the door on payday. Now, what logging goes on, the workers live out of town, she said. These days, the place stays busy enough, but nothing like it used to be.

Barbara and her cohorts are beyond ready for something new. Van Ripers is for sale. So is Olsons, the largest resort in town, as well as many smaller properties.

“We’re all tired,” said Barbara, a warm and friendly woman with a white apron around her waist, who makes homemade pies and cakes, and a mean prime rib.

Barbara would work with any prospective buyer for her place, should one step forward. There’s a lot of memories in the old place. “I just want whoever takes it over to succeed,” she said.

In case of cougars …

We received a photo from Christi Killien of a sign made by her husband after a neighbor saw a cougar in the vicinity of Wiley Lane SE in Olalla, a mile-long, rural deadend road with “lots of kids.” The neighbor told Killien the cougar moved silently and swiftly into a tree that was 30 feet away from where it was first seen.

According to Dave Smith, author of “Don’t Get Eaten: The Dangers of Animals that Charge or Attack,” cougars will attack children and lone adults. He recommends traveling in groups, keeping children close and carrying a stick for defense.

Here are some other tips from Smith:

— Don’t run. Flight triggers the cougar’s instinct to pursue.

— Never turn your back on a cougar

— Stand tall, maintain eye contact and make yourself look as big as possible.

— Adults should pick up children to prevent them from running or making sudden movements that could incite the cougar to attack. Alternately, instruct kids to grab your leg or at least crowd around the adult.

My relatives on the East Coast are in awe of the stories I tell about frequent encounters with wildlife. We are fortunate to live in a place where wild animals still have relative freedom to roam, but the tradeoff is being aware of precautionary measures for staying safe.

Chris Henry, reporter

Night beach seine planned for tomorrow

Looking for something to do tomorrow evening? Why not check out the first-ever night Beach Seine event, hosted by the Clear Creek Task Force.

Here’s the details:

What: Help pull a 100-foot fish net (seine) from shore and discover what and how many fish live in the waters at the northern most part of Dyes Inlet waiting to feed some salmon. Fish and other kinds of marine life from the Near Shore Habitat provide young salmon with their food and shelter for up to 2 years before they migrate out of Dyes Inlet. Paul Dorn, the Suquamish Tribes Salmon Recovery Coordinator, will work with us as we net, identify, measure, and record data from the beach seine. Our catch with data from other Kitsap Near Shore Habitats will help us understand more about this vital underwater habitat we rarely visit.

Where:  Old Mill Park, Silverdale
When:  Aug.16th, 5:45 p.m. ‘til 7:30 p.m.
Bring: Boots (hip or waders are best); gloves, a towel, rain gear, sunscreen.


Humane Society of the United States ups reward for information on eagle poaching

Humane Society of the United States and The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust have upped the ante in the search for information on the killing of a bald eagle, apparently by gunshot, at Manchester State Park.

The eagle was found April 29 in some brush above the high tide line. A park official said it was apparent the adult bird, sex unknown, was not killed instantly, but crawled around for some time before it died. A Kitsap wildlife expert said it’s likely the eagle was part of a nesting pair.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is offering a $1,000 for information leading to conviction of whoever is responsible for the eagle’s death.

Here’s the press release from the Humane Society.

Reward Offered in Bald Eagle Poaching Case in Kitsap County, Wash.

(June 8, 2011) — The Humane Society of the United States and The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust are offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for illegally killing a bald eagle in Kitsap County, Wash. The HSUS reward adds to an existing $1,000 reward from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Case: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gives the following account: On April 29, the body of a bald eagle was discovered in Manchester State Park. The eagle was propped upright adjacent to the beach bluff and at the high tide mark. Resident bald eagle pairs have been documented in and around the park. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Forensics Laboratory is performing a necropsy to determine the cause of death.

“Killing a protected species is a serious crime,” said Dan Paul, Washington state director for The HSUS. “The Humane Society of the United States thanks the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their efforts to combat poaching.”

Shooting an eagle is a violation of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act as well as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Penalties for violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act can include up to one year in jail and a $100,000 fine per individual or $200,000 per organization. Penalties for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act include between six months and up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $250,000 per individual, depending on whether an individual is convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony.

Wildlife officials estimate that for every wild animal killed legally—tens of millions of animals per year—another is killed illegally.
Every year, thousands of poachers are arrested nationwide; however, it is estimated that only 1 percent to 5 percent of poached animals come to the attention of law enforcement.
Poachers injure or kill wildlife anytime, anywhere and sometimes do so in particularly cruel ways. Wildlife officials report that poachers often commit other crimes as well.
The HSUS and HSWLT work with state and federal wildlife agencies to offer rewards of $2,500 for information leading to arrest and conviction of suspected poachers.
The Investigators: Anyone with information about the eagle’s death should contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement in Redmond, Washington, at 425-883-8122. Callers with information may remain anonymous.

The HSUS and HSWLT work to curb poaching across the country. Visit for more information.

Made a Good Back-to-School Shopping “Haul?”

I’m guessing junior high students are not following this blog with ‘bated breath, so this post is directed at their parents.

Kitsap kids prove me wrong, and send me a link to your back-to-school shopping “haul” videos.

Yes, that time-honored tradition, comparing what-cha-got for that all important first day of school has migrated to the Internet, where youngsters — predominantly girls in late elementary to early high school — show off their purchases (aka purchases made with their parents’ money, typically).

Here’s an example:

I remember twirling the telephone chord, while chatting with my best friend Susan Grieco about the cute mini-skirt I talked my mother into buying for me in eighth grade. This is kind of the same idea, only in this case, ifshionista101 has an audience of 3,587 to-date.

Here’s a another girl who assured herself of extra attention by throwing Hollister, Abercrombie and American Eagle into her video title. She has more than 19,000 video views so far.

These girls are not alone. More than 150,000 such user-generated videos have been posted to YouTube, and retailers have taken note, integrating the concept into their marketing strategies. According to an article in USA Today, JC Penney, for example, offered gift cards worth $250 to $1,000 to six girls whose haul videos have gotten a high number of hits for mention of merchandise from the store. Some were given free transportation and lodging to shop near J.C. Penney’s home in Plano, Texas, the article says.

“It’s one of the most innovative things we’re doing this fall,” says Mike Boylson, JC Penney’s chief marketing officer. “All of these haulers have followers and friends. That’s how you start the ball rolling.”

The company has created a website for haul videos,

Federal Trade Commissioner regulations require the makers of the videos to disclose if they’ve received compensation from the stores, but store officials have encouraged them to be honest on their opinions of the clothes. And generally, they are.

Forever 21 and American Eagle also are among stores tapping into the haul phenomenon, another online article says.

As a parent, I have mixed feelings about the videos. On one level, the girls themselves are endearing for their directness and lack of Madison Avenue effects. They remind me of myself and Susan Grieco, except with trendier clothes.

On another level it seems a little crass and commercial. I don’t know what is more disturbing, the fact that tens of thousands of girls have seen fit to dedicate their video production skills to clothing, or the fact that manufacturers are capitalizing on it.

Then again, obsessing about fashion is what young girls do (the great majority go on to have productive, substantive lives), and capitalizing on that obsession is what manufacturers do. Only in this case the consumer is the messenger. Maybe that’s a good thing.

I’d really like to hear from anyone on the Kitsap Peninsula who’s made a haul video. What response have you gotten. If you made it some time ago, do you look back at what you bought and say, “That was so yesterday!”?

Oh, and let me know when I can “haul” my mini-skirt out of the closet again.

Why Did the Bear Cross (Old Clifton) Road?

On my way in to work this morning, I came upon a large adult bear, ambling across Old Clifton Road. By the time a could pull over and grab my camera, he or she had already changed direction and headed back into the woods northwest of the county’s Juvenile Detention Center.

For all the Kitsap Sun has written about bears (and here, and here) and for all the walks I’ve taken in local woods, I had never actually seen one. Dang, they’re big!

I heard it crashing through the woods and thought (briefly) about going after it, but intrepid reporter though I like to think I am, common sense kicked it. Besides, I wasn’t wearing my running shoes. And besides, running shoes wouldn’t have helped if I had needed them.

Bear sightings are fairly common here on the Kitsap Peninsula (we actually just heard on scanner of a mother and three cubs somewhere in Port Orchard). But that doesn’t seem to diminish the sense of wonder (and healthy respect) we have for bears.

OK, I’m muscling in on Grimley’s beat, so I’ll butt out now.

Chris Henry, reporter

Bears in the Backyard

Jerry Stansberry of North Kitsap sent this picture of a family of bears taken July 17 on his property.
Jerry says,”The photo was taken this past Saturday July, 17th at my house which is located between Poulsbo and Suquamish near the east end of Lincoln Rd. The momma bear is in the background and the three little ones in the foreground the one on the left is standing up to reach the apples in the tree.”

Photo by Jerry Stansberry, North Kitsap

Man, hope you used a telephoto lens Jerry.

Bears, Man’s New Best Friend?

Brynn Grimley writes:

Ah black bears, where would we be without them?

Since joining the Kitsap Sun four years ago I somehow fell into being the paper’s “black bear beat” reporter. (Gardner even bought me a stuffed black bear head to prove it. I’ve since forgotten the name I gave the bear, but it remains pinned to my mini cubicle wall next to the phone and watches me work daily).

I was first introduced to writing about black bears and their yearly trips into our urban areas roughly one month into the job. It was Memorial Day 2006 and as the new reporter (also known as a “cub” reporter, fitting no?) I was slated to work. The editor at the time woke me up that morning via cell phone exclaiming: “There’s a black bear in Bremerton!” I later arrived to find the bear in a trap and wildlife officials explaining the young bear likely came the Illahee Preserve into downtown Bremerton to find food in the various garbage cans laying about.

Since then I quickly realized things are different on this side of the water. (I grew up in a relatively urban area north of Seattle, though we did have coyotes and raccoons  — but the raccoons were so tame even our cats befriended them). I have since reported about a Port Orchard man who was attacked by a black bear in the Banner forest, a Seabeck man harvesting a 570-pound black bear in Seabeck, the hunt for a sow after her cubs were trapped and removed from Bremerton and an overall story about the life of a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife sergeant and how he handles human interactions with wildlife. (It’s the humans he worries about more than the wildlife).

Each year we write the same story: It’s spring, bears are starting to come into neighborhoods and they’re hungry. In the last few years the number of bear sightings have been on the rise. The best advice for limiting interactions with wildlife? Don’t leave anything outdoors that they could consider food. We write this story every year, and yet there still seem to be people out there who don’t register the advice applies to them.

My first bear story of the this year was about a bear that was shot by a Bremerton man on Monday. The wildlife officer that investigated the shooting said based on the evidence presented and his interview with the man, his family and neighbors, he was justified in killing the animal. But there’s a thin line between killing an animal because it poses a threat and wrongfully killing it. That’s why wildlife officers are so adamant that people do everything in their power to keep bears from coming around (again that means removing all food sources from outside, including even hummingbird feeders).

He explained while the Bremerton man was justified, a man in Kingston a few weeks ago who started chasing a black bear with a rifle would have faced criminal charges if he’d actually shot the animal. That’s because the animal was running away and not posing a threat to the man. (It’s kind of like the self-defense argument you would use in court…if the bear is attacking you you can argue self-defense if you shoot it; but if the bear sees you and runs away, it’s harder to prove you were defending yourself, especially when you chase after the animal).

Already this spring wildlife officials have removed five bears from Kitsap County. They also trapped three bears in January that were problematic in Poulsbo — an unusual occurrence for our winter months. A total of two bears have been shot and killed by residents, the Bremerton shooting off McKenna Falls Road that happened this week, and one earlier this year in Kingston where a bear wouldn’t leave a chicken coop alone. No wildlife officers have euthanized bears in Kitsap this spring — and they hope they won’t have to.

Sadly that wasn’t the case in a Long Beach Peninsula town last week. According to a press release sent out by fish and wildlife on Tuesday, 10 black bears had to be removed from Oysterville, in Pacific County, after they became so comfortable with humans they didn’t shy away.

Five of the bears — female adults and cubs — were taken to Mount Rainier National Park, but the other five had to be euthanized because they were “so dangerously habituated to people,” according to the release. Meat from the euthanized bears was donated to an area food program.

Here’s what fish and wildlife enforcement Sgt. Dan Chadwick had to say in the release: “I hope we never have to do anything like this again. I’ve never seen such a concentration of bears in such a small area. It was completely unnatural and it was caused by people feeding wild animals.”

Neighbors complained about the high number of bears gathering in the area. When officials investigated they learned one residence was responsible for the problem — the people living there estimated they were spending $4,000 annually on dog food to feed the bears.

Bears relying on humans for food can’t be relocated in the wild because they will associate people with food and could become dangerous if they see humans in the wild. That’s why the five bears were put down.

“We can’t risk human life by releasing a bear that would cause problems for other people,” Chadwick said in the release. “A fed bear is a dead bear. We keep trying to communicate that, to try to prevent situations like this one.”

To show how comfortable the bears were around humans, when a wildlife officer arrived to check out the bears one of the bears crawled into the cab of his pick-up truck.

So when you hear wildlife officials warn about feeding the animals — either intentionally or unintentionally — they’re not only trying to protect humans, but they’re also trying to save the bears’ lives.

Who Ya Gonna Call: Beekeepers

Earlier this week, when environmental reporter Chris Dunagan received a newsletter from the West Sound Beekeepers Association and asked, “OK, who’s the bee reporter around here?” I had to arm wrestle Steve Gardner. Guess who won.

Yes, Gardner recently wrote that exciting piece on the invasion of the bee swarm at Peninsula Subaru, but I demand credit for my willingness, yea, eagerness, a couple weeks earlier to check out a report on the police scanner of a box of bees discarded in an alley near Safeway in Bremerton. I dropped what I was doing, Pulitzer material though it may have been, and headed out there, ready to be stung in the line of duty. Alas there was no sign of bees or emergency workers, who were reported to have responded to the complaint.

Dang, I hate it when that happens.

I have been fascinated with bees since before I wrote about the North Kitsap couple who heralded the survival of Kitsap’s bee population, despite the dreaded colony collapse disorder. Credit here should go to intrepid reporter Ed Friedrich, who is also obsessed with bees and had been egging all of us on for months to check it out.

It’s spring. Animals (and insects) are on the move. Why, just today I heard from our homeowners association that a bear had been sighted on trails near McCormick Woods. The deer in the neighborhood are positively militant. The woodpeckers are hammering on the metal flashing of our roof, just because it sounds sexier than hammering on a rotten stump. And as I drive to work, I see that the Canada geese that Friedrich is so enthralled with on the Gorst shoreline are multiplying, their young ones getting to the stage that my kids are at – just about to get booted out on their own.

Yes, it’s a wild world out there.

The West Sound beekeepers advise that swarms of bees in the spring are normal and nothing to be alarmed at. Members of the group will come, as Gardner so aptly described, and pluck unwanted swarms from your shrubbery, happy to be of service. The group, emulating their subjects of interest, are highly organized. There are members of the Swarm List, awaiting your call in all corners of the county. The newsletter (below) outlines the steps you should take in the event of a bee invasion of your property. Step number one: remain calm. As Gardner found out, while bees are swarming (moving to a new home) they are not likely to sting.

I apologize that the documents are sideways. Hopefully, you can print them for handy reference, just in case.

Chris Henry, bee correspondent for the Kitsap Sun