MassWildlife Monthly: February 2016

MassWildlife Celebrates 150th Anniversary with Speaker Series
Establishing Endangered Timber Rattlesnakes at Quabbin Reservoir
How to Help Wildlife in the Winter
Are Ice Conditions Safe?
2015 Deer Harvest Preliminary Report
Injured Bald Eagle Rescued in Sterling
2015 Freshwater Sportfishing Awards Program Winners
Invest in Conservation this Year
Excellence in Energy and Environmental Education Award
Upcoming Events and Meetings

 

MassWildlife Celebrates 150th Anniversary with Speaker Series

In 2016, MassWildlife is celebrating 150 Years of Conservation with a variety of events including a speaker series. Be inspired, hone your skills as a naturalist, and try something new! Hear from our staff and our partners as they discuss a variety of current conservation issues and programs. Learn how you can help contribute to projects that rely on public input and observations. In addition to the lectures, we will also host a variety of field outings that highlight Massachusetts wildlife and habitats. All lectures are free and open to the public and will be held at 7:00 P.M. at MassWildlife Field Headquarters, 1 Rabbit Hill Road in Westborough. Several field outings will take place at locations throughout the state.

The first lecture in the series, Wildlife Journey in Time: The History of Wildlife in Massachusetts, is on February 18. Join us on a time travel trip that will focus on the history of wildlife in Massachusetts starting from early settlement through the present. MassWildlife’s Marion Larson will explain how changes in the landscape changed wildlife populations and people from the colonial era through the present.  You’ll learn why the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife was created and how the agency’s role in fish and wildlife conservation has changed with the times. Speculate on the future of fish and wildlife and how you can play a part in it. The talk begins at 7:00 P.M. at the new MassWildlife Field Headquarters building, 1 Rabbit Hill Road in Westborough. All talks are free and open to the public.  We hope to see you there! Click here to learn more.

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Establishing Endangered Timber Rattlesnakes at Quabbin Reservoir 

The Timber Rattlesnake is listed as an Endangered Species in Massachusetts and has experienced the greatest modern decline of any native reptile. It is a high conservation priority species for the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, (MassWildlife) the agency with the legal responsibility and mandate to conserve endangered and common wildlife species. Currently, there are only five populations of Timber Rattlesnakes in the Commonwealth. As part of an overall conservation strategy, MassWildlife is proposing to establish a small number of rattlesnakes on Mount Zion, a large island closed to the public at the Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts. Click here to watch an interview with MassWildlife Asst. Director Tom French about the Plan.

Native to Massachusetts, the Timber Rattlesnake has lived here continuously long before European settlement. Humans are the greatest threat to the Timber Rattlesnake. While killing or disturbing this snake is a serious criminal offense, these acts, combined with road mortality, continue to be major factors that contribute to the rattlesnake’s imperiled status. "The proposal to establish a small, discrete population of Timber Rattlesnakes at the Quabbin Reservoir has evolved out of the need to have at least one location in Massachusetts where this native endangered species will avoid people." said Tom French, MassWildlife's Assistant Director of Natural Heritage and Endangered Species. "As the agency with the legal mandate and responsibility and the expertise to conserve both rare and common wildlife, the Division is striving to ensure this imperiled and fascinating snake does not finally disappear almost 400 years after European settlement."

Snakes used for this project will be offspring of Massachusetts snakes. Juvenile snakes will be headstarted in captivity by the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, RI for two winters allowing them to grow large enough so that they will have the best chance of surviving to adulthood. While rattlesnakes are perfectly good swimmers, this island is large enough that they would have little motivation to swim away. Even if the snakes did swim, they would pose no measurable risk to the public, considering rattlesnakes have long lived in popular state parks and wildlife lands heavily used by people elsewhere in Massachusetts.

Throughout human history, snakes of all types have been feared, maligned, and persecuted. Because the Timber Rattlesnake is venomous, people express understandable concerns for their safety and the safety of family members and pets. As a venomous snake, the Timber Rattlesnake certainly has the potential to be dangerous, but the reality is that there has been no public harm. Timber Rattlesnakes are generally mild in disposition and often rattle their tails to alert animals and people. Wild bites to people (who don’t deliberately handle or disturb a rattlesnake) are extremely rare. Most modern bites occur as the result of irresponsible (and illegal) activities that involve handling or harassing the animals. The latest antivenin treatments have greatly reduced the danger even if a person is bitten. 

The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, the agency with the legal mandate and scientific expertise is working hard to ensure that this imperiled and fascinating snake does not finally disappear almost 400 years after European settlement. 

Learn more about this plan: Mass.gov/dfw/timber-rattlesnake-conservation

Learn more about rattlesnakes in MA: Mass.gov/dfw/timber-rattlesnake-facts

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How to Help Wildlife in the Winter (Watch a Video)

Each winter, MassWildlife receives inquiries from the public regarding whether or not to feed wildlife. While people have good intentions, supplemental feeding of wildlife typically does more harm than good. Most wildlife seasonally change their behavior to adapt to cold temperatures and scarce food supplies. Supplemental feeding can alter that behavior and have detrimental, sometimes fatal, effects. Wildlife in Massachusetts have adapted over thousands of years to cope with harsh winter weather, including deep snow, cold temperatures, and high winds. 

Supplemental feed sites congregate wildlife into unnaturally high densities, which can:

  • Attract predators and increase risk of death by wild predators or domestic pets;
  • Spread diseases among wildlife or cause other health issues (e.g. Rumen acidosis in deer, Aflatoxicosis in turkeys);
  • Cause aggression and competition over food, wasting vital energy reserves and potentially leading to injury or death;
  • Reduce fat reserves, as wild animals use energy traveling to and from the feeding site;
  • Cause wildlife to cross roads more frequently, therefore increasing vehicle collisions;
  • Negatively impact vegetation and habitat in areas where feeding congregates animals.

Providing wildlife with food at any time of year teaches them to rely on humans for food, which puts them at a disadvantage for survival and can lead to human/wildlife conflicts. Once habituated behavior is established, it can be very difficult or impossible to change.

What can you do? The best way to help wildlife make it through the winter is to step back and allow the animals’ instincts to take over. To help wildlife near your home, focus on improving the habitat on or near your property by including natural food and cover (e.g., some conifer cover and regenerating forest or brushy habitat).

Bird feeding: MassWildlife biologists advise against feeding wildlife. While backyard bird feeding during winter months is generally acceptable, we recommend using native plants and water to attract birds to your yard. Fallen bird seed can unintentionally attract many types of wildlife, including bears, turkeys, small mammals like squirrels and mice, and predators like foxes, fishers, and coyotes that feed on small mammals. If you notice unwanted wildlife in your backyard, bring in your bird feeders immediately.

For tips on avoiding conflicts with wildlife, such as bears, coyotes, and turkeys, visit our Living with Wildlife Fact Sheets

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Are Ice Conditions Safe?
Attention ice anglers, skaters, and other winter adventurers: check ice carefully before venturing out on ice-covered waters. In general, a clear layer of ice 4 inches thick is safe for foot traffic, but there are no guarantees.

Always consider ice to be potentially dangerous. Assess ice safety by using an ice chisel to chop a hole in the ice to determine its thickness and condition. Ice thickness is seldom uniform, so continue to test the ice as you go further out onto the pond or lake. The thickness of ice on ponds and lakes depends on water currents, depth, and the presence of springs and natural objects like tree stumps or rocks. Daily changes in temperature cause the ice to expand and contract, which affects its strength. Don't venture on to ice-bound rivers or streams because the currents make ice thickness unpredictable.

Ice Thickness and Strength

Ice Thickness (inches)Permissible Load (on new* clear**, blue ice on lakes or ponds)
2" or lessSTAY OFF!
4"Ice fishing or other activities on foot
5"Snowmobile or ATV
8"-12"Car or small pickup truck
12" - 15"Medium truck
*New ice is stronger than older ice. **White ice or “snow ice” is only about half as strong as new clear ice. Double the above thickness guidelines when traveling on white ice.


What if you fall through the ice?
As with any emergency, don't panic! Briefly call for help. It doesn't take long for the cold water to start slowing your physical and mental functions, so you must act quickly. Air will remain trapped in your clothes for a short time, aiding in buoyancy. Kick your legs while grasping for firm ice. Try to pull your body up using ice pins or picks that should be hanging around your neck. Once your torso is on firm ice, roll towards thicker ice – the direction from which you previously walked. Rolling will distribute your weight better than walking. After you reach safe ice, you need to warm up quickly to prevent hypothermia. Go to the nearest fishing shanty, warm car, or house. Don't drive home in wet clothes.

If a companion falls through the ice remember the phrase “Reach-Throw-Go.” If you are unable to reach your friend, throw a rope, jumper cables, tree branch, or other object. If this does not work, go for help; do not risk becoming a victim yourself. Pet owners should keep pets on a leash. If a pet falls through the ice, do not attempt to rescue the pet; go for help. Well-meaning pet owners can easily fall through the ice when trying to save their pets. Additional ice safety information is available by clicking here.

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2015 Deer Harvest Preliminary Report

The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) reports that the preliminary statewide deer harvest for 2015 (excluding Quabbin and any data not yet received) is 10,042. The Youth Deer Hunt Day harvest was 132, preliminary archery season harvest was 4,188, the preliminary shotgun season harvest was 4,123, and the preliminary primitive season harvest was 1,599. The above average temperatures during most of the deer season as well as above average food availability likely played a role in low harvests. When food resources are abundant, deer do not have to move as far or as often. Also, deer have thick winter coats during the fall and winter, so during warm weather, they tend to limit their daytime movement (less available for harvest). A more thorough look at the data over the next few months, along with hunter survey data will provide more details.

 

Zone

Youth

Archery

Shotgun

Primitive

Total

1

6

80

158

49

293

2

20

138

215

89

462

3

12

153

237

84

486

4N

13

155

204

64

436

4S

7

85

84

34

210

5

4

157

241

109

511

6

 0

30

71

23

124

7

1

207

221

72

501

8

12

195

293

111

611

9

13

396

327

160

896

10

12

1,083

539

298

1,932

11

31

1,025

785

331

2,172

12

 0

62

103

21

186

13

 0

207

316

84

607

14

1

215

329

70

615

Total

132

4,188

4,123

1,599

10,042

 

Click here for a wildlife management zone map.

While total harvest by zone can be informative, it doesn’t provide the complete picture for monitoring trends in deer density because total harvest is influenced by antlerless deer permit allocations in each zone as well as annual changes in hunter effort, weather, etc. The MassWildlife Deer Project Leader analyzes harvest, biological, and hunter effort data, along with hunter success rates, female versus male harvest, and other factors to manage deer populations in each zone. An analysis of this information is now underway for the annual spring deer management review. A complete harvest summary will be posted on the MassWildlife website shortly after the annual deer review, so please check back in May or June.

Keep an eye on your email inbox for our annual hunter survey. Hunters who included a valid email address in their MassFishHunt profile may receive a hunter survey by email in February or March. The survey is designed to understand hunter effort and preferences and to collect important local “on-the-ground” information that will help manage game in the Commonwealth. The survey takes approximately 5-15 minutes to complete. All responses are anonymous; identifying information such as email and IP address will not be recorded. The link is specific to each email address; therefore, hunters should not forward the invitation to others as it can only be filled out once. MassWildlife staff thanks those who have already taken the time to fill out the survey. In order to receive future surveys, make sure to enter a current email address in the customer profile section of the MassFishHunt system.

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Injured Bald Eagle Rescued in Sterling

On Saturday, January 23, 2015, Masswildlife’s Information and Education Chief Marion Larson was alerted to a report of a potentially injured adult bald eagle in her home town of Sterling. A landowner, Anthony (Tony) Papandrea had seen the bird on the ground on his property and observing it in the same spot after a couple of hours, he called the local Animal Control Officer. The bird wouldn't fly, but easily eluded the lone ACO. Fortunately Tony who is a Sergeant with the West Boylston Police Department had taken some pictures of the bird and shared them with the staff. A dispatcher who knew the bird was on the state endangered species list was able to connect with Marion that evening. After conferring with colleagues on bird capturing tips, Marion made arrangements to meet the landowner the next morning.

Sunday morning, soon after Tony relocated the bird in the woods, Marion and her husband Dr. Scott Handler, a veterinarian with experience handling raptors, arrived on the scene with leather gloves, blankets and animal crate in tow. The would-be captors made their way down a steep, snowy forested hill. The eagle tried to sneak away, bounding and hopping through the brush and trees, but after 15 minutes of crashing through barberry bushes and clambering over and around downed trees, the three managed to maneuver the eagle near a blow down where blankets were tossed over the raptor’s head and body. The leather-gloved veterinarian then further wrapped the bird to protect himself from the bird’s huge talons and large yellow beak, and safely placed the bird, blankets and all, into the crate. From there, they transported the eagle to the Tufts Wildlife Clinic at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in Grafton where it was weighed, provided fluids and pain medication and housed in a quiet, covered cage.

The next day, a more detailed medical examination of the eagle revealed a dislocated coracoid (a bone that attaches to the sternum) which indicated the bird likely struck something with a hard impact. The dislocation prevented the bird from flying. One possible source of impact might have been high tension power lines located only a few hundred yards from the landowner’s home. Dr. Florina Tseng, Director of the Wildlife Clinic said veterinarians bandaged the bird’s wing to its body to stabilize the injury. Treatment will include supportive care: food, fluids, pain medication and rest.

Whenever possible, MassWildlife has been banding (placing metal leg bands) young eaglets before they leave their nest. This eagle sports a silver federal leg band and a Massachusetts gold leg band. MassWildlife’s records indicate this bird was banded as a chick (along with another sibling) by MassWildlife in June of 2010 (nearly 6 years ago) at a nest site in the Petersham portion of the Quabbin Reservoir. Based on its size and weight, biologists and veterinarians believe the eagle is an adult male.

MassWildlife would like to thank Sergeant Anthony Papandrea for his concern and assistance during the capture, West Boylston dispatcher Sandra Luthman for making the connection to the agency and to Dr. Scott Handler, (Tufts V’88) for his assistance. Kudos to the Tufts Wildlife Clinic for their care of the eagle. Anyone wishing to contribute to the care of this eagle or other wildlife brought to the Bernice Barbour Wildlife Clinic is welcome to do so as the Clinic cannot charge for the care of wildlife. To make a donation go to: tuftsgiving.org. At Select a School, choose Cummings Veterinary and in Select An Area, choose Wildlife Program and complete the rest of the form. To learn more about Bald Eagles in Massachusetts, please click here.

UPDATE: On March 8, 2016, the Bald Eagle was successfully released back into the wild at the Quabbin Reservoir. 

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2015 Freshwater Sportfishing Awards Program Winners

Winners of the 2015 Freshwater Sportfishing Awards have been announced! Mark Mohan, Jr. of Pembroke is the 2015 ‘Catch and Keep’ Adult Angler of the Year, catching 16 species. Tauri Adamczyk of Taunton is the 2015 ‘Catch and Keep’ Youth Angler of the Year, catching 15 species. The first ever ‘Catch and Release’ Angler of the Year is Michael Nee of Northborough, catching 15 species. The list of 2015 Gold Pin winners are posted on our website. The Freshwater Sportfishing Awards ceremony will be held this spring; details will be announced when the date is finalized. Meanwhile, interested anglers of all ages who would like to participate in the 2016 program should visit our Freshwater Sportfishing Awards Program web page to learn more. Remember, anglers now have two options for submit their trophy catch: catch & keep and catch & release.

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Invest in Conservation this Year

MassWildlife reminds and encourages Massachusetts taxpayers to invest in endangered wildlife and plant conservation this tax season by donating to the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Fund on their state tax returns (Line 32a). All donations go into the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Fund, a critical funding source for the annual budget of MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. About 20,000 tax-filers support the Program each year. If you have made a contribution in the past, thank you for supporting the Program and its conservation efforts!

Contributions can also be made directly by sending a check payable to the “Commonwealth of MA: NHESP” to: MA Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Fund, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581

Some of the success stories behind the work of the NHESP include the recovery of bald eagles and peregrine falcons. In 1989, there were four territorial pairs of Bald Eagles in Massachusetts and the first wild-born chicks fledged. In 2015, there were 51 known territorial pairs of Bald Eagles in Massachusetts, with at least 583 wild-born chicks known to have fledged since 1989. As for Peregrine Falcons, there were two known territorial pairs in 1989, which fledged five wild-born chicks at that time. This past summer, the number of territorial pairs of Peregrines increased to 33, with at least 535 wild-born chicks known to have fledged since 1987.

While Massachusetts has made considerable progress, more than 425 plants and animals are recognized as rare in the Commonwealth. “The Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program is the first line of defense for the Massachusetts’ most vulnerable plants and animals,” said DFG Commissioner George Peterson. “I strongly encourage taxpayers to support the fund as it will help us protect these valuable and endangered resources.”

Visit our website to read more about contributing to rare species conservation this year.

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Excellence in Energy and Environmental Education Award

The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs is now accepting nominations for the 2016 22nd Secretary’s Awards for Excellence in Energy and Environmental Education. Deadline for submitting your application is March 30, 2016 at the close of business.

Applicants can type directly into the online form and submit it; or download the "fillable" pdf application, fill it out, save it and then email their application to Meg.Colclough@state.ma.us

The Secretary's Advisory Group on Energy and Environmental Education (SAGEE) will review nominations through the beginning of April. Winners will be notified in April along with an invitation to attend a formal award ceremony at the State House. Award winners will be recognized by the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Winners will receive certificates of excellence, honor and merit. We encourage you to nominate a school program, teacher and students who are participating in energy and environmental education projects.

Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
100 Cambridge, 9th Floor
Boston, MA 02114

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Upcoming Events and Meetings

February 4 & 9: Basic Freshwater Fly Tying Course, Westborough – This course is in cooperation with the Charlton Conservation Department at the MassWildlife Field Headquarters (1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough) from 7:00 P.M. – 9:00 P.M. This is a free, two-session course for beginning fly tyers only. Participation is mandatory for both sessions. All tools and tying materials provided. *Open to the public, minimum age is 15. Pre-registration is mandatory. Please contact Jim Lagacy to pre-register at 508-389-6309 or jim.lagacy@state.ma.us

February 6: Buffumville Lake Ice Fishing Festival, Charlton CANCELLED DUE TO POOR ICE CONDITIONS– This festival is in cooperation with the US Army Corps of Engineers Buffumville Lake and the Charlton Conservation Department from 10:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. at the north cove picnic area off of Oxford Road in Charlton. This is a free, non-competitive, family friendly, learn to ice fish event. Bring your ice fishing equipment, or borrow ours- limited equipment and bait will be provided. *PLEASE NOTE: This event will only be held if there are 6 inches or more of safe ice. If the forecast is for rain or snow, the event will be cancelled. Please contact Jim Lagacy or Todd Girard at the phone numbers listed below by Thursday, February 4th for event go/no go information. *Open to the public- contact Todd Girard at 508-248-2247 or todd.girard@townofcharlton.net, or Jim Lagacy at 508-389-6309 or jim.lagacy@state.ma.us, or the USACE Buffumville Lake at 978-318-8411.

February 11: Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Advisory Committee Meeting, Westborough – The meeting will take place at the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Field Headquarters Office located at 1 Rabbit Hill Road in Westborough from 1:30- 4:30 P.M. in the Southwest Meeting Room, Room #103. Please note: If you have a disability or medical condition and would like to request special accommodations, please contact Susan Sacco at 508-389-6342.

February 15: Entry Deadline for Junior Duck Stamp Contest – The JDS program links the study of wetlands and waterfowl conservation with the creation of original artwork. Students in grades K-12 learn about the habitat requirements of various kinds of ducks and geese and then express their knowledge of the beauty, diversity, and interdependence of these species artistically, by creating a drawing or painting and submitting it to the JDS art contest. The art is judged in four age group categories in a statewide competition; the entry judged Best of Show moves on to represent Massachusetts in the national JDS competition. Art teachers, science teachers, and parents who home-school can visit our website for an information packet and entry information.

February 18: Wildlife Journey in Time: The History of Wildlife in Massachusetts
Join us on a time travel trip that will focus on the history of wildlife in Massachusetts starting from early settlement through the present. MassWildlife’s Marion Larson will explain how changes in the landscape changed wildlife populations and people from the colonial era through the present.  You’ll learn why the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife was created and how the agency’s role in fish and wildlife conservation has changed with the times. Speculate on the future of fish and wildlife and how you can play a part in it. The talk begins at 7:00 P.M. at the new MassWildlife Field Headquarters building, 1 Rabbit Hill Road in Westborough. All talks are free and open to the public. Learn more.

February 19 - 21: Angler Education Program and MassWildlife Display at the Springfield Sportsmen’s Show, Springfield – Join us at the Springfield Sportsmen’s Show at the Big “E” Fairgrounds in West Springfield. *Open to the public. Please contact Jim Lagacy for more information at 508-389-6309 or jim.lagacy@state.ma.us

February 25: Fisheries and Wildlife Board Meeting, Westborough – The February meeting of the Fisheries and Wildlife Board will be held on Thursday, February 25, 2016, at 1:00 P.M., at the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife’s Field Headquarters, Richard Cronin Building, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, off North Drive, Westborough, Massachusetts. Please note: If you have a disability or medical condition and would like to request special accommodations, please contact Susan Sacco at 508-389-6342

February 25 & March 1: Basic Freshwater Fly Tying Course, Charlton – This course is in cooperation with the Charlton Conservation Department at the Fay Mountain Farm (12 Cemetery Road, Charlton) from 7:00 P.M. – 9:00 P.M. This is a free, two-session course for beginning fly tyers only. Participation is mandatory for both sessions. All tools and tying materials provided. *Open to the public, minimum age is 15. Pre-registration is mandatory. Please contact Todd Girard to pre-register at 508-248-2247 or todd.girard@townofcharlton.net

See full Calendar of Events.

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