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MassWildlife Monthly April 2019

News from the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife

Table of Contents

Spring turkey hunting season approaching

The 2019 Massachusetts spring turkey hunting season opens on April 29 and runs through May 25. The 2019 Youth Turkey Hunt is April 27. During the spring season, hunting hours begin ½ hour before sunrise and end at noon. Get ready for the start of season by reviewing regulations, purchasing your license and turkey permit, reading safety information, and improving your skills. 

Regulations

Before you go hunting for wild turkey, be sure you know the rules. Click here to review wild turkey hunting regulations. Hunters must have a 2019 hunting or sporting license and a wild turkey hunting permit. Licenses and turkey permits may be purchased online using MassFishHunt or in person at a license vendor. Harvested turkeys must be reported within 48 hours of harvest. 

Remember: bearded birds only in spring. The annual bag limit is two turkeys per year either by: (a) two bearded birds in spring season (one per day) with NO fall turkey hunting allowed, or (b) one bearded bird in spring season and one bird of either sex in fall season. No hunter may take two birds in the fall season.

Stay safe

  • Be completely sure of your target and what is beyond it before you shoot. Always practice firearm safety.
  • Do not stalk birds. Sit or stand and call the turkeys to you.
  • Do not wear red, white, blue, or black; these colors are associated with male turkeys.
  • Set up against a tree or a rock, but make sure your view isn’t obstructed.
  • Do not place decoys too close when you set up. Never carry an exposed decoy or tail fan while hunting; put them in a bag when carrying them into or out of hunting locations.
  • Remember to place an official safety sticker on your firearm positioned so you can see it when sighting down the barrel. For a new or replacement sticker, visit any MassWildlife office or send a self-addressed stamped envelope to: MassWildlife, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581.

Turkey Hunting Tips

Before season

  • Spend time identifying active gobblers a week before the season. There is a lot of flock movement weeks before the opening of the season. The birds you saw displaying or heard gobbling in early April may have moved elsewhere by late April.
  • If you wish to scout early, focus on identifying new parcels to hunt. You can do this by:
    • Checking local bylaws relative to hunting or private property access.
    • Identifying parking and access locations.
    • Securing permission from the landowner.
  • Some locations hold turkeys during the hunting season each year, but others are less predictable. It pays to put your time in close to the beginning of the season to determine which locales are holding turkeys.
  • Avoid calling to turkeys during the pre-season to locate gobblers. Rather, look for scat, feathers, scratching in the leaf litter or other signs of turkey activity.
  • Once you locate one or more gobblers, it is best to determine their roosting areas. Gobblers are most vocal before sunrise and sunset. These times are your best bet for scouting them in the field.
  • Pattern your shotgun before the season to determine which load will work best at various ranges.

During season

  • In the spring hunting season, many hunters try to roost a gobbler the night before they hunt him. The next morning try to get within 100 to 150 yards of the gobbler before it gets light enough that he will be gobbling. Try to get uphill of or on the same level as the gobbler.
    • Call the gobbler to you, don't stalk it. Stalking can lead to hunting accidents.
    • Select a calling position with your back against a tree or other natural obstacle large enough to cover your human outline.
    • Keep good visibility so you can see turkeys and other hunters approaching your position. Some hunters tie bright survey tape to a branch above their position to alert other hunters of their presence.
    • Respect the other hunter. Don't cut in on areas where other hunters are working birds. Don't get between another hunter and a bird.
  • Be patient, often gobblers will be unresponsive to your calls in the early morning when they are with hens. Those same birds can become very active and callable in the late morning.
  • Hunt in the rain. Many turkey hunters don’t like hunting in the rain, but turkeys are active rain or shine. During rainy days, focus your efforts in open hay fields or agricultural areas, as turkeys prefer these openings when it’s wet.
  • If a turkey does appear, identify your target and what is beyond it. In the spring season you can only harvest a bearded turkey in Massachusetts. Know how to identify the sex of the turkey by: head color, body color, and make sure it has a beard before you shoot. Make sure other turkey hunters are not in line with your targeted bird and that no other hunters are behind your intended target.
  • If another hunter does approach your position, remain still and call out to him in a loud voice. Do not wave or sound your turkey call to get another hunter's attention.
  • Know your shooting range and make sure the gobbler is within distance before you shoot.
  • Don’t disregard the late season. Although breeding activity is declining, there are still a lot of active gobblers around.

Enter your catch in the Freshwater Sportfishing Awards Program

The spring fishing season is here, and it’s the perfect time to take part in MassWildlife’s Freshwater Sportfishing Awards Program. The Program, which has been around for more than 50 years, recognizes anglers who catch exceptional freshwater fish from Massachusetts waters that are open to the public. It’s easy to get involved—when you think you’ve caught a trophy fish, take a photo, weigh or measure your fish, and submit your catch. There are categories for Catch and Release and for Adult and Youth Catch and Keep. Twenty-two fish species are eligible for entry in the Program. If you catch and enter a fish that meets the minimum weight or length you’ll get a bronze pin for that species. If you submit the largest or longest fish in an eligible species category, you’ll get a gold pin and a plaque; you’ll also be honored at a MassWildlife awards event at the end of the season. Get all the details about entering your catch.

New rules for 2019

We will be making every attempt to update the leader board more frequently in 2019! To help this effort, and to make the leader board meaningful and accurate, we will be bringing back the 30 day submission deadline. Starting April 1, 2019, all entries must be submitted within 30 days of the date of the catch.

Submit your entry online

Save time and a stamp by submitting your Freshwater Sportfishing Awards Program entry using the online affidavit. Just enter information about you and your catch, upload a photo of your fish, and click submit! Online forms are processed faster than paper forms, allowing us to award pins and update the leader board more quickly. If you plan to keep your fish, use the online Catch and Keep affidavit; if you are releasing your catch, use the online Catch and Release affidavit.

2018 winners

Winners of the 2018 Freshwater Sportfishing Awards Program have been announced! Angler of the Year awards are given in 3 categories to the person who catches the most species that meet the minimum weight or length requirements. Check out a list of the 2018 top catches by species.

Highlights:

  • Todd Matera of Palmer is the Catch & Keep Adult Angler of the Year. He caught 11 of the 22 eligible species.
  • Jason Bunar of Kingston and Andrew Langley of Peabody tied for Catch & Keep Youth Angler of the Year. Both anglers caught 21 of the 22  eligible species.
  • Michael Nee of Framingham is the Catch & Release Angler of the Year. He caught 15 of 22 species.
  • 8 new state records were awarded in the Catch & Release category.

Watch for amphibians on the road

Spring has been slow to materialize throughout much of Massachusetts in 2019, but April rains will finally bring our early spring-breeding amphibians out of their winter retreats. Marshes will resonate with the annual chorusing of spring peepers and northern leopard frogs, while the musical trilling of American toads and the raucous quacking of wood frogs will be heard from vernal pools in fields and forests alike. The forest floor will come alive with the creeping, crawling, and hopping of salamanders and frogs as they migrate through the landscape to access their breeding sites. Others yet will take advantage of the rains to disperse to different patches of habitat. Unfortunately, many of those animals will be faced with the daunting task of having to cross roads to reach their destinations.

Spotted salamanders, wood frogs, blue-spotted salamanders, Jefferson salamanders, American toads, spring peepers, four-toed salamanders, northern leopard frogs, and eastern red-backed salamanders are all species that we frequently encounter on roads during early spring rains. However, unlike turtles, these animals can be difficult to see. They are generally small-bodied and move under the cover of dark. In the case of the blue-spotted salamander, they may even blend with the road surface. During mass migrations, amphibians occur at such high density on certain stretches of road that avoiding them while driving is virtually impossible. The ensuing carnage that follows is plain to see, as scores to hundreds of torn-up amphibian carcasses (and their now-exposed, light-colored underparts and entrails) litter roadways wherever they pass by vernal pools and other wetlands.

This April and May, please be mindful of our amphibians and our natural heritage. Please do your part to help ensure that future generations will come to know and appreciate the awesome sounds and signs of spring we all love. Whenever possible these next 2 months, please consider not driving on rainy nights when air temperatures are 40°F or higher. If you must travel during such conditions, delaying beyond the first 2 hours after sunset is recommended. Please drive cautiously and carefully, and travel on larger highways rather than small, wooded roads to the extent possible. You could even plan routes that minimize the number of wetlands or vernal pools passed.

If you are someone who likes to go out to observe amphibian migrations, please consider arriving at your destination prior to sunset, and then conduct your monitoring on foot. For those who assist amphibians across roadways or handle them for other reasons, be sure your hands are free of lotions, bug repellent, or other chemicals.

If you do happen to observe particular road segments with high levels of amphibian activity or mortality, please also consider reporting the site to the Linking Landscapes for Massachusetts Wildlife initiative, which aims to compile data on problem areas to help identify ways to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions. Lastly, if you encounter any of our state-listed rare amphibian species (eastern spadefoot and blue-spotted, Jefferson, and marbled salamanders) this spring, please take a clear photograph of the animal, carefully record the location, and submit an observation report to MassWildlife's Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program.

Peregrine falcon nest cameras are streaming!

It’s nesting season for peregrine falcons in Massachusetts! Get an inside look at the nests of the fastest birds on Earth through one of the live nest cameras in the state. These threatened birds can be found nesting on rocky cliffs, as well as manmade structures such as buildings and bridges.

Prior to the use of DDT, a pesticide once commonly used, there were 375 nesting pairs in the eastern United States. The last peregrine falcon nesting pair in Massachusetts was in 1955 and by 1966, there were no remaining nesting pairs in the eastern United States. The peregrine falcon was listed as endangered in 1969 under the federal Endangered Species Conservation Act and DDT was banned in 1972.

MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP) was established in the early 1980s to protect the state’s rare species. Peregrine falcon restoration became NHESP’s first project and is its longest running project to date. The first successful nesting pair in Massachusetts occurred in 1987 on the Customs House Tower in Boston. The peregrine falcon was removed from the federal list of Endangered and Threatened Species in 1999. Each year, MassWildlife staff monitors nests and places leg bands on chicks. Banding provides data relating to dispersal, longevity, and recovery. Peregrine falcons have benefited from the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act and the work of NHESP. The status of peregrine falcons has improved from endangered to threatened, reflecting the progress made over the past 35 years. Learn more about peregrine falcons in Massachusetts.

Help monitor peregrine falcon nests

Web cams in the peregrine falcon nests listed above make it easy to monitor the nests for eggs, hatched chicks, and fledged chicks. Most of the other peregrine falcon nests around the state aren't so high-tech. We're asking interested individuals to help monitor these sites and let us know if there are any others that we should know about! Learn more about monitoring peregrine falcon nests in Massachusetts.

More mussels mean cleaner water

Behold, the mighty freshwater mussel. It doesn’t look like much. To most people, it just sits there doing nothing but hurt your feet as you walk barefoot in the river or stream. In fact, most people mistake freshwater mussels for rocks. Rocks that keep our rivers and streams clean.

Freshwater mussels—like their cousins, saltwater mussels—eat plankton and other small things by filtering water that passes over them. This filtration doesn’t just take nutritious bits out of the water for the mussels to eat, it also takes floating debris like silt and algae out of the water, making the water cleaner for everyone. One mussel can filter up to 15 gallons of water moving over it in a single day. That's a lot of cleaning going on for an animal that most of us mistake for a rock.

Most of the freshwater mussels in Massachusetts rivers are in danger of disappearing. Despite their filtering prowess, freshwater mussels are sensitive to chemicals and other man-made pollutants in the waterways where they live. Freshwater mussels are also dependent on fish for their survival. Before living a rather long life (some species live for 70–100 years!), freshwater mussels begin life parasitizing fish. Their version of hitchhiking cross country, larval mussels called glochidia hitch a ride on the gills or fins of fish for about 3 weeks. The fish act as a nutrient source and transportation for the mussels until they fall to the waterway bed and begin their lifelong career of filtering. But habitat fragmentation blocks passage for these host fish in rivers and streams, hurting their chances of survival. As numbers of fish decline, larval mussels will miss a crucial step in their development and not be able to survive to adulthood.

Of the 12 freshwater mussel species in Massachusetts, six of them are protected under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program is working with partners at UMass Amherst to study the life history of our protected mussels to better aid in their conservation. With knowledge gained from these studies, we are better able to protect land and improve habitat at high priority sites.

You too can help freshwater mussels. When you give a voluntary contribution through Line 33A for Endangered Wildlife Conservation on your state income tax form, you are taking part in freshwater mussel conservation. Money voluntarily contributed through Line 33A for Endangered Wildlife Conservation goes directly into a fund that can only be used for conservation work in Massachusetts. Funds donated through this income tax check-off line are used for conservation work with freshwater mussels and over 400 other rare species protected by the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act.

Already filed your taxes? No problem! You can still help endangered animals and plants.

Rare mussels in Massachusetts

Six of the 12 species of freshwater mussels in Massachusetts are protected under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. Click on the common names below to learn more about each species.

Common name Scientific name MA status Federal status
Dwarf wedgemussel Alasmidonta heterodon Endangered Endangered
Brook floater Alasmidonta varicosa Endangered  
Yellow lampmussel Lampsilis cariosa Endangered  
Tidewater mucket Leptodea ochracea Special concern  
Eastern pondmussel Ligumia nasuta Special concern  
Creeper Strophitus undulatus Special concern  

Junior Duck Stamp winner announced

Tiffany Xiao, a student of the Apple-Leaf Studio in Boxborough, won Best of Show in the 2019Massachusetts Junior Duck Stamp (JDS) Contest. Her acrylic painting of a Barrow’s Goldeneye pair was selected from 232 entries. Xiao’s award winning work will move on to the National JDS Contest to be held in Laurel, MD. Good luck, Tiffany!

Students from kindergarten through 12th grade from across the Commonwealth submitted original works of art depicting waterfowl in appropriate wetland habitat, demonstrating both artistic talent and a knowledge of the value of wetlands for wildlife. In March, MassWildlife hosted an awards ceremony for the top 100 winning artists at Field Headquarters. A combination of the top 100 artworks will be exhibited throughout Massachusetts in the coming year.

The Massachusetts JDS Program is sponsored by MassWildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with support from Massachusetts Sportsmen’s Council. You can support the JDS Program and wetland conservation by purchasing Junior Duck Stamps featuring national winners from previous years. A limited number of Junior Duck Stamps available for purchase at MassWildlife's Westborough Office (cash or check only) or buy online at duckstamp.com.

Learn more about the Massachusetts Junior Duck Stamp Program.

Report bat colonies to protect endangered bats

The past two years, MassWildlife asked you to report bat colonies to help better assess where bats are during the summer months in Massachusetts. Your help is needed again this year. If there is a colony of 10 or more bats on your property, please report colonies here. Colonies may be found in trees, buildings, attics, barns, sheds, or other outbuildings. This information will be used to help conserve the state’s endangered population of little brown bats. 

Since the onset of white-nose syndrome (WNS) in Massachusetts, the state’s population of little brown bats has dwindled to less than 1% of what it once was. In one abandoned mine, almost every bat hibernating over the 2008/2009 winter died from WNS—nearly 10,000 bats dropped to just 14. First seen in bats hibernating in a cave near Albany, New York in 2006, WNS is caused by a fungus that grows on cave-hibernating bats during the winter. The growing fungus rouses the bats from hibernation, causing them to use up precious fat stores before fully waking in the spring, leading to starvation. As a result of the drastic mortality from WNS, all species of cave bats that hibernate in Massachusetts are now listed as endangered on the Massachusetts Endangered Species List.

Two species of bats—the little brown bat and the big brown bat—form summer colonies in trees, buildings, attics, barns, sheds, and other outbuildings in Massachusetts. Little brown bats also hibernate in caves during the winter, where they can contract WNS. Before WNS, little brown bats were the most common bat species in the state. Now, they are one of the species most affected by WNS in Massachusetts. MassWildlife is especially interested in understanding the post-WNS status of little brown bat populations, including knowing the size and location of their colonies.

During the 2018 summer bat maternity season (June–July), MassWildlife partnered with the Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI) to survey bats throughout Massachusetts and to locate little brown bat maternity colonies where mothers group together to raise their young. Bats were located by listening for their calls with special acoustic detectors, mist netting, radio telemetry, and visits to reported roost sites. BRI captured 32 individual bats of three species and tracked two little brown bats to three roost sites. The highest emergence count at a roost site was 125 individuals.

Also in 2018, a second contractor surveyed known historic little brown bats colonies to determine the presence or absence of this species post-WNS. Unfortunately, only a few little brown bat colonies from the historical database still remain. However, this is an ongoing effort and several sites still need to be surveyed.

MassWildlife is committed to reducing the vulnerability of the surviving populations of little brown bats. “This is a great opportunity for the residents of Massachusetts to help in the conservation of an endangered species right in their backyard,” says Jen Longsdorf, who is a part of MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. Many thanks to those who previously reported bat colonies and roost sites throughout Massachusetts. Since MassWildlife began tracking public reports of bat colonies in 2017, over 200 reports have been received. These reports will result in the location of additional new little brown bat maternity colonies that can be monitored and protected in Massachusetts. 

Learn more about white-nose syndrome in Massachusetts.

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