Only on Vashon – The Weekly Rundown 11/12/2023

We start this week with the island’s newest resident: a black bear. This little guy was caught on someone’s door cam on the North End of the island. 

The first comment is, “Holy crap!! Has anyone been notified like fish and wildlife, cops?”

When people laugh react, the commenter asks, “Why is it funny?”

Why is the thought of calling the cops on a bear and having the bear arrested funny? I mean, just imagine trying to shove a bear into the back of the paddy wagon. Try to get handcuffs big enough for a bear. Try reading them their Miranda rights and having them translated into bear. 

Next time a raccoon harasses my chickens, instead of running into my backyard in my pajamas and slippers, brandishing a broom and screaming, I’ll just yell out the window, “Back off or I’ll call the police!” 

Apparently, the cop question is rooted in a memory. They distinctly remember being in high school when a bear came to the island and the authorities were called, and they removed the bear. 

I have to think really hard to even remember my high school mascot (a Trojan- which we were all very mature about); I can’t imagine remembering how a wild animal would have been handled long ago in that distant time when my brain was a half-developed ball of fermenting jelly. But others agree with the commenter- there definitely was a bear some ten odd years ago, and the authorities definitely did a thing. Some say the thing they did was wait for it to swim to Des Moines and catch it there. Others say they killed it. Others say it was captured on island and released elsewhere, possibly at the circus. 

But others say no one comes for the bears; they just leave on their own, disappearing into the mist like citizens of Brigadoon. That is, if the citizens of Brigadoon got tired of our garbage and swam off to somewhere with more discarded Big Mac wrappers. 

As one islander so poetically put it, “Bears just eventually get bored and leave. They swim here, they swim away. The one I remember appeared to arrive via Colvos and departed to Des Moines.”

Some people dig up old Beachcomber articles, looking for the truth in the archives. I didn’t read any of the links, so I don’t know the truth of what happened to the Bears of Times Past. 

There are other sources of knowledge about the bear, if anyone can find them. One commenter adds this tidbit of information:  “There used to be a small chapbook you could check out from the library. The land trust put these books out about a quarter century ago. The one about the bear on Vashon back then was very entertaining.“

Do these books still exist? Vashon librarians, if you’re reading this, please let us know. 

Many commenters remind us not to approach the bear, feed the bear, pet the bear, ride the bear, etc. This leads one inquisitive islander to ask, “If not friend, why friend shaped?”

Which brings us to another post. One person left us this lovely image with the caption ‘FYI’: 

In the comments, someone says, “Do not pet!!!”

The poster responds, “no petting, only hugs allowed.” 

And speaking of wild animals, we had this remarkable occurrence: For the second time since a traumatic capture attempt in 1965, orcas have come into inner Quartermaster Harbor.  

Rather than discussing this miracle, we argue about the picture on the right: Did that paddleboarder seek the orcas out, or were they minding their own business when the orcas approached. 

Comments range from: “Orcas actually approached the paddle boarder, he was watching from afar.” to “Humans suck.”

Some people have sympathy for the paddleboarder. One says, “ I would have just died on sight. I love these animals, but… Always, my worst fear is something coming up from below 🐙, 🐳,🐋,🧌!!! Then, if people were mad at me, I would die again!” 

Some say the paddleboarder must have been looking for orcas. They say, “Why else would they be paddle boarding in November? I haven’t seen any paddle boarders on Burton beach in a few weeks or maybe months!”

Okay, I was just out the weekend before Halloween with a bunch of other weird middle-aged women. We were all dressed as witches and we paddled around Jenson Point for over an hour. So if you haven’t noticed any paddleboarders for a few weeks, you really haven’t been paying attention. 

Some people are brought to rage by the image. One says, “I think paddling out in hopes of a close encounter with some whales is main character complex behavior. Just leave them alone! They are also intelligent life on this planet, not just a spectacle for the self centered to interfere with.”

I love that, by simply looking at a picture, you can get mad at a person who is a whopping two centimeters tall on your screen, assume you know their situation and motivation and can  diagnose them with narcissistic personality disorder. 

I’ve decided that if i see someone rage-posting about something they have no context for understanding and are just recreationally getting mad about how every little thing they see is a manifestation of the rot in the human soul that is causing the downfall of human society and the death of the environment, then I will diagnose them with Internet Personality Disorder. 

Some people who are clearly sane say that it’s pretty normal for whales to approach humans: “I’ve been in a small human-powered boat on Puget Sound and had whales (and seals) approach from curiosity. Whales & other mammals are curious about us as we are of them. It doesn’t seem all that unusual, nor dangerous to either party.”

One person shares this remarkable story about an animal encounter, “When I was about 15 (nearly 100 years ago😉) I was windsurfing as a camper at Camp Sealth. I was sitting on my board (feet in the water) with my sail down waiting for wind and that is exactly what happened to me – I didn’t see anything until something so enormous my brain couldn’t comprehend it was passing under my board (and feet!) so close I thought I would touch it!! (I didn’t) I pulled my feet up & held on as it rocked the board. Orca would be the likely bet but it didn’t breach and I did not see black & white I saw gray – so I really don’t know – but it is incredibly unnerving to be that close to anything that big -especially-when you don’t see it coming!”

I wonder if whales say to other whales, “Don’t go close to humans! They’re already habituating to us. They’re not supposed to be on the water!” And on the day we all wore witch hats, they must have thought we were trying to put dorsal fins on our heads. I bet half of them think we’re delightfully stupid and cute, while the others warn each other about how dangerous we are. And come to think of it, both groups are right. 

Anna Shomsky
Author: Anna Shomsky

I'm a former teacher and a data engineer living on Vashon Island. My writing has appeared in Five on the Fifth, Women on Writing and on the Post-Culture Podcast. I wrote and produced the radio show Whispers of Vashon for 101.9 KVSH. I’ve had short stories published in the anthologies Island Stories and Chicken Scratchings, as well as through the Open Space Literary Project.

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