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- PUBLIC'S HELP NEEDED FOR COTTONTAIL SURVEY
- OUTDOOR AND WILDLIFE-RELATED GIFT IDEAS
- WINTHROP AND HORWITZ HONORED
- JOIN THE 111TH CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT
- 2010 DEER SEASON RESULTS FOR PARAPLEGIC HUNTERS
- UPCOMING PUBLIC EVENTS AND MEETINGS
PUBLIC'S HELP NEEDED FOR COTTONTAIL SURVEY
Beginning this winter, the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) will be conducting a statewide survey of cottontail rabbits to assess the distribution and population of New England cottontails (Sylvilagus transitionalis), the only cottontail rabbit species native to the northeastern United States and rarely seen. Two kinds of cottontail rabbits are found in Massachusetts, the common non-native Eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) and the New England cottontail. Division biologists are asking for the help of hunters, highway department workers, animal control officers, and other interested citizens across the state to provide DFW with cottontail carcasses or intact cottontail skulls for the survey.
"The reason we need cottontail skulls is that it is virtually impossible to tell the two species apart when you see them in the field." said David Scarpitti, DFW Upland Game Project Leader. "They can only be positively identified by looking at skull characteristics or through DNA analyses. Gathering a sample collection of cottontail heads or skulls from across the state is our best method to use when investigating rabbit population characteristics and distribution." Scarpitti noted that survey methods such as hunter and road kill collections provide substantial information on distribution, but the information is only as good as the amount of participation by interested people, and the geographic distribution of collected specimens and habitat sampling. "The more samples we have from different parts of the state, the better we can understand where New England cottontails are found."
Carcasses or intact cottontail heads should be placed in a plastic bag and frozen until they can be dropped off at a DFW District Office, DFW hatchery, or DFW's Field Headquarters in Westborough. Please include a note with contact information, date of collection and detailed location information such as town, street or land parcel. A marked topographic map or GPS coordinates are ideal, but any detailed location information will greatly aid biologists.
During the last 25-50 years, the distribution New England cottontail has been drastically reduced across their range in New England. "New England cottontails are scarce due to the lack of suitable habitat," said Scarpitti. "Unlike the Eastern cottontails seen in neighborhood yards, parks, fields and pastures, New England cottontails require dense, thick shrublands to hide from predators and survive cold, harsh winters. Shrublands, regenerating clearcuts, densely vegetated wet areas, utility/powerline rights-of-way, and other thicket habitats provide the necessary year-round food and cover requirements for cottontails." New England cottontails also require large expansive patches of dense thicket habitat, often a minimum of 10-20 acres in size. These habitats types are very uncommon, amounting to less than 5% of all forested habitat acreage in Massachusetts. DFW is creating shrubland and young forest habitats in suitable locations on Wildlife Management Areas and is actively encouraging other landowners to create shrubland and young forest habitats in appropriate areas.
The cottontail survey is part of a range-wide effort called the New England Cottontail Initiative (NEC), focusing on distribution and habitat restoration of New England cottontails throughout New England and New York. The NEC Initiative involves partnerships with state and federal natural resource agencies, conservation organizations and other large landowners focusing on surveys, habitat identification and habitat restoration efforts. Funding for the New England Cottontail Initiative comes from a competitive State Wildlife Grant awarded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to a partnership of New England and New York state wildlife agencies and the Wildlife Management Institute. More information on cottontails and past research efforts.
OUTDOOR AND WILDLIFE-RELATED GIFT IDEAS
Now is the time to consider a wildlife-related gift for the outdoor or wildlife enthusiast on your holiday list! The following suggestions from the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) are suitable gifts to consider for all ages. A two-year subscription to Massachusetts Wildlife magazine ($10) delivers eight full-color issues of the Commonwealth's best wildlife publication. For the budding conservationist, try a copy of Critters of Massachusetts book ($5). Critters is a great gift for the curious youngster or the beginning adult naturalist with an interest in backyard wildlife and beyond. For the more advanced naturalist, the Field Guide to Dragonflies and Damselflies ($20) or A Field Guide to the Animals of Vernal Pools ($12) might be just the ticket. In-depth descriptions and detailed photographs help the reader identify and learn more about these creatures. For the budding herpetologist, there are a couple of options: The Field Guide to the Reptiles of Massachusetts features information on breeding, feeding habits, range, habitat, and conservation issues. This unique issue of the Massachusetts Wildlife Magazine is $3/copy and also offers spectacular color photos of the various species including color and pattern morphs of those species with variations and a list of key features that allows you to identify any native snake and turtle (except sea turtles) found in the Bay State. The turtle enthusiast in your life may enjoy an Introduction to the Threatened Turtles of Massachusetts, a video available from DFW's Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program for $5. More information is found at: www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/publications/publications_home.htm or call the Westborough Field Headquarters at (508) 389-6300.
2011 hunting/fishing licenses and stamps will be appreciated by the sportsman or woman in your life. Licenses will be available for sale on line or through license vendors throughout the state by mid-December. License purchases support wildlife conservation, management and restoration of wildlife and wildlife habitat protection in Massachusetts and licenses. Information on purchasing a license on line or at a license vendor locations.
Give them the gift of the outdoors! For adult women, purchase a gift certificate for one of the 2011 Becoming an OutdoorsWoman workshops. Workshops on skills such as animal tracking, shooting, fishing, kayaking and photography are designed for adult women new to that particular skill. The 2011 schedule of one-day and the weekend workshops will be posted in January. A wonderful outdoor experience for teen girls and boys, ages 13 - 17 years old is the Junior Conservation Camp, a two-week overnight camp session packed with outdoor skills learning such as shooting, fishing, canoeing and camping and taking field trips with biologists. The camp is located in Chesterfield and will be held in August.
For the person who has everything, make a donation in his or her name to support one of the following two funds. Wildlife habitat protection can supported by donating to the Wildlands Fund, a fund solely dedicated to acquiring important wildlife habitat open to wildlife-related recreation. Send a check made out to: Comm. of MA - DFW Wildlands Fund and send it to: DFW Wildlands Fund, DFW Field HQ, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581.
The other fund, the Natural
Heritage and Endangered Species Fund, supports efforts to protect
rare and endangered wildlife. Donations in the form of a check made
out to: Comm. of MA - NHESP should be sent to the DFW Field HQ, 1
Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581.
WINTHROP AND HORWITZ HONORED
Fisheries and Wildlife Board Member Frederic Winthrop, Jr. of Ipswich was recently named by the Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition (MLTC) as a 20th Anniversary Honoree. The MLTC lauded Winthrop's achievements as Commissioner of Agriculture including the institution of pesticide regulations and the establishment of the Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program which buys the development rights to farmlands. He was also recognized for his role as Executive Director of The Trustees of Reservation and his service on the President's Council of the American Farmland Trust. Winthrop represents both the Northeast Wildlife District of Massachusetts and agricultural interests on the Fisheries and Wildlife Board.
The Nashua River Watershed Association (NRWA) awarded its 2011 Environmental
Education Award to Ellie Horwitz, Chief of Information and Education
for the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. A certified wildlife biologist,
Horwitz has been involved with environmental education at the state
level for 33 years. The NRWA recognized her role in helping to form
the Secretary's Advisory Group on Environmental Education, her efforts
in the development of the Massachusetts Environmental Education Plan
and the Massachusetts Environmental Frameworks. The NRWA also noted
her service as a lead instructor for North American Environmental
Educators Project for Excellence in Environmental Education, her active
involvement in the development of conservation education materials
at a national level and her promotion of the "No Child Left Inside"
legislation currently being debated at the national level.
JOIN THE 111TH CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT
Make the Christmas Bird Count part of your holiday outdoor tradition! From mid-December through January 1, 2011, bird lovers in Massachusetts will be participating in the nation's longest running wildlife survey, the 111th Annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC). Families, students, birders, and scientists armed with binoculars, bird guides, and checklists go out on an annual seasonal mission - often before dawn. For decades, the desire to both make a difference and to experience the beauty of nature has enticed dedicated people to leave the comfort of a warm house during the holiday season. The data collected by bird observers over the past century allow researchers, conservation biologists, and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. When combined with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, the CBC provides a picture of how the continent's bird populations have changed in time and space over the past hundred years.
In Massachusetts, there are 33 geographic "count circles"
where the bird counts occur. Each count circle is coordinated by an
experienced Count Compiler who works with teams of birders responsible
for that circle's bird count. Beginning birders can join a group that
includes at least one or two experienced birdwatchers in charge of
covering a portion of the circle. In addition, if your home is within
the boundaries of a count circle, you can report the birds visiting
your feeder. In either case, if you have never been on a CBC before,
locate and contact your local Count Compiler to find out how you can
participate. To connect with the Compiler and find out about the local
bird club in your area, visit the MassBird
website. A list of Frequently Asked Questions with more details
and national CBC results are found on National
Audubon's web page.
2010 DEER SEASON RESULTS FOR PARAPLEGIC HUNTERS
In late October, 28 hunters participated in a special deer season hunt for paraplegic sportsmen and -women at four sites in central and western Massachusetts. A total of five deer (one buck, three does and one button buck) were taken for an overall success rate of 18%. The hunt is coordinated by the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW), with assistance from state agencies, military personnel, and volunteer sportsmen and women. Hunt sites are located at Quabbin Reservation in Belchertown, South Post in Devens, private land in Williamstown, and property in and around Mount Washington State Forest.
This year's Quabbin hunt was dedicated to the memory of Richard (Dick) Woodard. Dick was an avid wheelchair-bound sportsman who participated in the Quabbin paraplegic hunt and prior to that hunted for many years at the Berkshire sites. While serving on the Quabbin Advisory Committee, Dick was a strong advocate for the Quabbin to host a deer hunt site for paraplegic sportsmen and -women. The southern Berkshires site also lost a long-time volunteer, Gus Paraglu of the Department of Conservation and Recreation, who spent many years assisting on the hunt. "This is an important hunt that has provided countless hours of recreational opportunities for hunters and could not be the success it has been without the assistance of the many staff and volunteers involved," said Trina Moruzzi, DFW Biologist and Hunt coordinator.
The DFW has been offering interested paraplegic hunters the opportunity
to hunt deer during
a special 3-day season since 1972. When a hunter successfully
shoots a deer, volunteers assist the hunter by retrieving the deer,
field dressing it, and getting it properly checked in by DFW staff
on site. Hunters and volunteers alike enjoy this opportunity to spend
time together outdoors. More details about this hunting program can
be found in an article written by Moruzzi in DFW's Massachusetts Wildlife
magazine latest issue (Volume 3, 2010), which is currently in the
mail to magazine subscribers. Next year's hunt dates are November
3-5, 2011. Paraplegic sportsmen and women interested in participating
in next year's hunt should contact Trina Moruzzi at (508) 389-6318.
UPCOMING PUBLIC EVENTS AND MEETINGS
December 1 - December 21, 2010 -- Junior Duck Stamp Traveling Art Exhibit at Wachusett Regional High School's Bowes Gallery, Holden Contact Suzanne Breen at (508) 829-6771. Information about the 2011 Jr. Duck Stamp Contest.
December 1 - December 18, 2010 -- Junior Duck Stamp Traveling Art Exhibit at Great Falls Discovery Center, Turner's Falls Call Sarah Bevilaqua at (413) 863-3676. Information about the 2011 Jr. Duck Stamp Contest.
December 9, 2010 -- Wildlife in Your Back Yard and Beyond, Petersham -- Moose, black bear, bats, eagles--who's there? Bill Byrne, MassWildlife photographer, will present a lecture and slide show on this topic. Free and open to the public. The Petersham Branch Alliance is hosting this free presentation at 7:30PM at the Unitarian Church in Petersham just off Rte. 32 (North Main St.) on Petersham Common.
December 9, 2010 -- Natural Heritage Advisory Committee Meeting, Westborough -- The Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Advisory Committee will meet Thursday, December 17, 2010 at the DFW Field Headquarters, 1 Rabbit Hill Rd (off North Drive) from 1:30 - 4:30pm. The building is handicapped accessible. Directions or call the Field Headquarters at (508)389-6300.
December 17, 2010 -- Fisheries and Wildlife Board Meeting, Westborough -- The Fisheries and Wildlife Board will meet on Friday, December 17, 2010 at Noon at the at the DFW Field Headquarters, 1 Rabbit Hill Rd (off North Drive). The building is handicapped accessible. Directions or call the Field Headquarters at (508)389-6300.
December 29, 2010 -- January 12, 2011 -- Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey -- Eagle enthusiasts are reminded to mark their calendars for the annual midwinter eagle survey on major rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and the coast. This survey is part of the annual nationwide Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey held in early January. Reports of bald eagle sightings during this time period are invited from the public. Send your report to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include contact information, date, location of the bird and whether the bird was an adult or juvenile. On Friday, January 7, 2011, Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) will conduct a concentrated statewide effort to count eagles. More details on that effort will be announced in late December.
January 12-19, 2011 -- Organic Land Care Course, Newburyport
-- Landscapers and other land care professionals with an interest
in organic land care can still register for the 10th Annual Northeast
Organic Farming Association (NOFA) Organic Land Care Course at the
Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Newburyport. This fiv-day,
(accreditation optional) course is designed to provide professionals
with the education needed for an understanding of organic land care
from design to maintenance. For more information, contact Kathy Litchfield,
NOFA/Mass Organic Land Care Course Coordinator, at (413) 773-3830,
email@example.com. To register
online, visit www.organiclandcare.net.
For a complete listing of wildlife-related events,
see the Events Calendar.
Last Updated: 12/07/2010