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MassWildlife Monthly June 2023

News from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife

Table of Contents

June 3–4, 2023 is Free Fishing Weekend

Mark your calendars for this year’s Free Freshwater Fishing Weekend on June 3 and 4! No license is required to fish any public lake, pond, reservoir, stream, or river in Massachusetts from 12 a.m. Saturday, June 3 until 11:59 p.m. Sunday, June 4.  

  • Other than Free Fishing Weekend, you need a license to fish in fresh water if you are 15 or older. If you're 15–17 or 70 and older, your license is free. Funds from fishing license sales support MassWildlife’s fisheries research, fish stocking programs, and angler education programs. Buy your fishing license here. 
  • All other regulations, including catch limits, apply during Free Fishing Weekend. Before heading out on the water, make sure you know the rules. Review fishing regulations
  • For saltwater anglers, Free Saltwater Fishing Weekend is June 17–18.

Where to fish

Use the Go Fish MA! fishing map to find places to fish near you! You can also explore trout stocked waters or handicapped accessible fishing sites

Sharpen your skills

It's easy to learn to fish. All you need to get started is some simple gear and a little practice! Read fishing tips and watch tutorial videos.

Attention hunters: Apply for ADP before July 16

The deadline for applying for an Antlerless Deer Permit is July 16. Click here to learn how to apply.

Dragonflies, damselflies take flight

As spring moves towards summer and temperatures start to rise, native insects begin to take flight. Perhaps none are as extraordinary as dragonflies and damselflies. These majestic flyers don’t always look like their adult forms. For the past 10–36 months, wingless dragonfly and damselfly larvae (or nymphs) have been living underwater in rivers, lakes, and ponds. These juveniles swim and stalk through the submerged muddy terrain in search of other aquatic insects, tadpoles, and even small fish to prey upon. As they grow, nymphs undergo a series of moltings, shedding their insect skeletons for a slightly larger one each time. Nymphs of our largest dragonfly—the common green darner—can be as long as 3 inches before transitioning to an adult!

When young dragonflies and damselflies are ready to emerge from natal waterbodies, they crawl out of the water and transform into adults. This metamorphosis does not occur within a cocoon, nor does it take days like with butterflies. Instead, adult dragonflies and damselflies hatch out of their own juvenile skins by cracking joints along the back of their exoskeleton and pushing themselves, back first, out of their nymphal form. The emerged dragonfly or damselfly rests in place, pumps blood into its wings to help them harden and spread, and finally takes to the sky. The entire process occurs within hours from the time they crawled out of the water.

In the air, dragonflies are the most skillful of insect flyers. They can move in virtually any direction. This is a skill that is nearly unique to dragonflies and damselflies and makes capturing prey rather easy. Dragonflies prey upon other large insects including damselflies and even other dragonflies. Smaller damselflies emerge in the same manner as their larger cousins, but are more delicate flyers as adults. Damselflies are equally efficient hunters though, and are among the greatest predators of annoying mosquitoes.

Telling the difference between a damselfly and a dragonfly is fairly simple. Damselflies (on the left in the above image) have a more slender abdomen (tail) and hold their wings together behind their back. Dragonflies have much larger, heavier bodies, and hold their two sets of wings splayed out to the sides, as you can see on the right in the above image. Similar to birds, male dragonflies and damselflies are often more colorful than females—a trait evolved to help attract a mate.

Over 160 types of dragonflies and damselflies live in Massachusetts. They come in nearly as many color patterns. Simply sit near, walk close to, or boat along the edge of a lake, pond, river, or small stream to be rewarded with a beautiful sight! Bring along some binoculars to help get a close-up view of these interesting and colorful insects.

Summer wild turkey survey

Every year from June 1 to August 31, wild turkey reports from the public help our biologists determine productivity, compare long-term reproductive success, and estimate fall harvest potential. Reports are welcome from all regions of Massachusetts, from the most rural communities to more densely-populated areas. The summer wild turkey survey is a fun way for people to connect with nature while contributing valuable data to MassWildlife biologists.

Click here to report wild turkey sightings in your area.

Wildlife coloring and activity pages

Color your way to a deeper understanding of Massachusetts wildlife. A new coloring and activity book has been added to our website and teaches residents of all ages how to coexist with bears, foxes, and coyotes. The book was created for a Girl Scout Gold Award Project. See all Massachusetts wildlife coloring pages.

Help native bats this summer

There are nine species of bats found in Massachusetts, five of those are listed as endangered. One of the greatest threats to bats is white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that impacts bats that spend their winters hibernating in caves and mines. Artificial bat houses provide clean homes for bats that are free of white-nose syndrome.  

Since 2020, MassWildlife has been working with partners and volunteers to construct, install, and monitor bat houses on Wildlife Management Areas and other locations across Massachusetts. This effort provides a safe roosting place for bats and raises awareness about the important role bats play in our environment. Properly constructed and strategically placed bat houses can be an important tool in assisting bat survival.  

With support from MassDOT, scout troops, and individual volunteers, the bat house project is off to a great start and is showing promising results. Some of the houses have been occupied by bats, and people are learning more about bat conservation. You can help the program continue to grow and support our native bats!

How to help:

  • Build a bat house: One of the best ways you can support bat conservation is to put up an artificial roost, like a bat house. Bat houses give females a safe, warm place to raise their young. Since most female bats only have one pup each year, bat populations grow very slowly. Additionally, due to habitat loss and degradation, it is becoming harder for bats to locate natural roost sites to raise their young. Installing a bat house on your property can provide a safe environment for bats, while protecting your yard from pest insects, like mosquitoes, moths, and beetles. Bat houses can be purchased, or you can build your own. You can find a guide to bat houses on MassWildlife’s website, including plans for building a bat house, installation tips, and advice for attracting bats to your bat house.   
  • Become a volunteer bat monitor: MassWildlife is looking for volunteers to help monitor bat house in the following communities: Belchertown, East Sandwich, Falmouth, Goshen, Middlefield, Montague, New Braintree, Richmond. No special bat experience is required! Monitors will be asked to visit the site of their assigned bat house at least once a month during June, July, and August, and report to MassWildlife if bats are present. Volunteers must have their own transportation to the site and be able to navigate using a set of GPS coordinates. If you are interested, please click here to complete an application form (deadline is June 9).
  • Report bat colonies: If you observe a group of bats (10 or more) this summer, report it to MassWildlife using this form.
  • Create habitat for bats: Bats seek shelter under peeling bark on dead trees. If you have dead or dying trees on your property, leave them standing as potential roost sites for bats. You can also create a bat-friendly landscape in your backyard by adding night-scented flowers and water features such as a pond.
  • Reduce pesticide use: Pesticides make it difficult for bats to find healthy food to eat. Insecticides can cause bats to go hungry from the lack of insects available.

For more information on white-nose syndrome and other threats to bats, see MassWildlife’s webpage on bat mortality in Massachusetts.

Heritage Hub upgrade

MassWildlife is pleased to announce a major system upgrade to the Heritage Hub. Since early 2021, the Heritage Hub web portal has provided an avenue to submit plant, animal, vernal pool, and natural community observations to MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP). The recent upgrade includes two new forms allowing users to file their MESA regulatory review applications electronically.

The new Request for State-listed Species Information form can be used to request rare species information for proposed development projects or for habitat management and conservation purposes. The new Project Review Checklist form provides an online option for applicants with proposed projects and activities within Priority and/or Estimated Habitat of state-listed species to file electronically with the NHESP. For more information on filing requirements see our Regulatory Review webpages.

The Heritage Hub upgrade includes: 

  • two new MESA online filing forms,
  • electronic payment portal,
  • greater transparency (e.g., notifications on review timelines, streamlined communication with project proponents, and easier access to determination letters), and,
  • enhancements to the Observation forms and bulk upload features.

Current users will see the new “MESA Forms” menu at the top of their screen. New users can visit mass.gov/heritagehub to learn more and register for an account. 

Report fish kills

Seeing dead or dying fish can cause distress and prompt concerns about pollution, but the vast majority of summer fish kills are natural events. As warm weather arrives, lakes and ponds heat up, and natural fish kills may occur. To ensure there is not a pollution problem, please report all fish kills by calling the Environmental Police Radio Room at 1 (800) 632-8075.

Natural fish kills are most often caused by low oxygen levels, fish diseases, or spawning stress. Depletion of dissolved oxygen is also a common cause. Water holds less dissolved oxygen at higher temperatures, and in shallower or weedier ponds, levels can drop further as plants consume oxygen at night. Fish spawning, including sunfish and bass spawning, occurs in late spring and early summer in shallow waters near shorelines. These densely-crowded areas can grow more susceptible to disease outbreaks as water temperatures rise. The result is an unavoidable natural fish kill, often consisting of only one or two species of fish. 

When a fish kill report comes in, MassWildlife fisheries biologists determine if it is natural or potentially caused by pollution. Because pollution impacts all aquatic life, the most important evidence biologists look for is the number and variety of fish associated with the incident. When pollution is suspected, MassWildlife notifies the Department of Environmental Protection, who then conducts a formal investigation of the water and the affected fish to determine the source of pollution.

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