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MassWildlife Monthly September 2021

News from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife

Table of Contents

Fall trout stocking begins in September

Nearly 28,000 rainbow trout over 14 inches, over 33,000 rainbow trout that are over 12 inches, and about 4,000 brown trout over 9 inches long will be stocked across Massachusetts this fall. These fish, coupled with the nearly 500,000 trout that were stocked in the spring, will provide for some great fall fishing! Fall stocking season will begin around mid-September depending on water temperatures and wrap up around mid-October. Once stocking begins, visit Mass.gov/Trout for a stocking report that is updated daily.

As the weather cools down, the fishing heats up! With fewer crowds, fall is the perfect time to get on the water. Check out our best fall fishing tips, including how to target bass and trout.

Birdfeeder recommendation update

MassWildlife is providing an update on the bird illness in other states and modifying its recommendations regarding bird feeding. In mid-July, due to an unknown illness in birds from other states in the mid-Atlantic and mid-west region, MassWildife requested the public report bird mortalities and stop using bird feeders and bird baths. Since then, MassWildlife has been monitoring bird mortality reports and communicating with other state wildlife biologists and wildlife disease professionals. This announcement comes after MassWildlife participated in a recent regional meeting with northeastern state and federal wildlife biologists and other natural resource professionals.

MassWildlife thanks all residents who reported bird mortalities or took other actions to protect bird populations. Although there were some reports of sick birds showing symptoms consistent with the mystery illness, it was not confirmed to be found in Massachusetts. The cause of large scale bird mortality events documented in at least 10 states since May remains unknown despite extensive and continued testing at the National Wildlife Health Center and other laboratories. While no definitive illness or cause of death has been determined, reports of sick and dead birds have dramatically decreased in the impacted states. Researchers have ruled out all of the typical bird illnesses including avian influenza, West Nile Virus, and Newcastle Disease. Furthermore, toxicology results have been negative for heavy metals and common pesticides and herbicides. Wildlife disease specialists found no direct evidence linking the disease to cicada brood emergence events. No human health or domestic animal (livestock, poultry, pets) issues have been documented.

Based on current knowledge, there is no indication that bird feeders and baths are contributing to the spread of this recent illness. Despite this, MassWildlife cautions rushing to put your bird feeders back up, as bird seed and suet are known to attract other animals like rodents, bears, and turkeys, which can cause conflicts between humans and wildlife. If you choose to resume feeding birds, MassWildlife advises taking certain bird health and safety precautions. Since birds congregating at feeders and baths can still spread other diseases, take extra care to disinfect these surfaces on at least a weekly basis. Clean with soap and water then disinfect with a 10% bleach solution, rinse with clean water, and allow to air-dry. If you observe dead or sick birds at or near a feeder, MassWildlife recommends removing and cleaning feeders and leaving them down for at least two weeks.

Rather than using bird feeders, MassWildlife suggests considering alternatives which attract birds to yards such as planting native plants, shrubs, or trees, installing water features, and erecting bird houses. These bird-friendly actions safely attract a wider variety of birds while avoiding the potential nuisance issues associated with bird seed (i.e., rodents, bears). Learn about how to attract birds to your yard naturally without feeders. MassWildlife especially discourages bird feeding in bear country—currently the Berkshires east to Worcester County and communities in Middlesex County bordering Rte. 495. With the onset of autumn, bears are entering a time period called hyperphagia. They travel more widely searching for food and consuming thousands of calories each day to fatten up for winter. With their keen sense of smell, bears will follow their noses for the high caloric content that bird seed, suet, corn, and other bird foods provide. They and their young will return to those locations which in the long term is not a safe situation for bears or people. Keep bears wild, don’t feed them!

State wildlife officials will continue to monitor the situation in Massachusetts and communicate with wildlife disease specialists on this illness. If you observe any sick birds showing crusty eyes and neurological symptoms (i.e., stumbling, inability to fly), please report it to MassWildlife using this online form. When new information on the disease becomes available, it will be shared.

Public hearing scheduled for proposed pheasant and quail hunting regulation changes

A public hearing will be held virtually via a Zoom video webinar at 9:30 a.m. on September 28 following the monthly business meeting of the Fisheries and Wildlife Board. The proposed regulatory amendments relate to 321 CMR 3.02(6) and 3.03(2). The proposed regulations would establish a pheasant/quail permit, eliminate the seasonal bag limit for pheasant and quail, remove rooster-only restrictions, and eliminate the hunter registration process for pheasant hunting at Martin Burns WMA. The full hearing notice, including the text of the proposed regulations, is available on MassWildlife’s Public Hearings page. 

  • To join the public hearing from a PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone or Android device, click here and use passcode: tirQM3. To join by phone, dial: (312) 626-6799 and use webinar ID: 869 9911 0010 and passcode: 476480 when prompted.
  • Please note: Due to filing requirements, the Fisheries and Wildlife Board must vote on the proposed regulatory amendments at the close of this hearing. Therefore, there will be no written comment period after this public hearing. To submit written comments prior to the hearing, please email susan.sacco@mass.gov to the attention of the Fisheries and Wildlife Board, or mail comments to Chairman, Fisheries and Wildlife Board, c/o Director of MassWildlife, Mass. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581. 

September marks the start of fall hunting

The return of cooler weather means many Massachusetts sportsmen and women will head into the woods for the fall 2021 hunting season. Massachusetts residents may be wondering where and when hunting will be taking place this fall. Early Canada goose hunting begins on September 1, black bear hunting season open statewide on September 7, while pheasant hunting season opens October 16. Archery deer and turkey hunting seasons begin on October 4 in eastern Massachusetts and on October 18 in the rest of the state. Click here to review a summary of all hunting seasons. Hunting on Sunday is not permitted in Massachusetts. Many public lands are open to hunting including Wildlife Management Areas, most state parks, and many town-owned lands. Research the property you plan to visit to learn if hunting is allowed.

Hunting is a safe activity and non-hunters should feel comfortable using the woods at any time of year. Although hunting accidents are extremely rare, wearing blaze orange will help minimize your chances of being mistaken for game animals during the hunting season. While hunters are required to wear blaze orange during certain seasons, all outdoor users who are in the woods during hunting seasons should wear a blaze orange hat or vest as a precaution.

Safety tips for non-hunters

  • Be safe, be seen. A brightly colored orange vest or hat will help you stay visible. Avoid wearing any earth-toned or animal-colored clothing. The use of blaze orange has dramatically reduced the number of hunting-related accidents in the field. Watch a short video on the Effectiveness of Blaze Orange. Remember, hunters are often active during the early morning and late afternoon when animals are most active. Be especially aware of your own visibility during these times when light is dim.
  • Keep pets leashed and visible. Place a blaze orange vest or bandana on your pet to keep it visible. 
  • Know when and where hunting is allowed. Get information about hunting regulations and season dates from our website. Hunting on Sunday is not permitted in Massachusetts. Wildlife Management Areas, Wildlife Conservation Easements, and Access Areas are open to hunting. Most state parks and forests are open to hunting, and many towns allow hunting on municipal lands. Learn about lands open to hunting in Massachusetts. Research the property you plan to visit to learn if hunting is allowed. If being in the woods during hunting season makes you uneasy, find a location where hunting is not allowed or plan your outing for a Sunday or another day outside of hunting season. 
  • Make your presence known. Talk loudly or whistle to identify yourself as a person. You may also consider wearing a bell. If you see someone hunting or hear shots, call out to them to identify your location. 
  • Be courteous. Once you've made your presence known, don't make unnecessary noise to disturb wildlife or hunting. Hunter harassment is against state law. Avoid confrontations with hunters. If you think you've witnessed a fish or wildlife violation, report it to the Massachusetts Environmental Police at 1-800-632-8075. 

Buy Surplus Antlerless Deer Permits in September

Sale of surplus antlerless deer permits by Wildlife Management Zone will be staggered over the following days in September:

•    Zone 11: Tuesday, September 28 at 9 a.m.
•    Zone 10: Wednesday, September 29 at 9 a.m.
•    Zone 9, 13, and 14: Thursday, September 30 at 9 a.m.

Surplus permits are $5 each and are first come, first served until sold out. You may purchase one Zone 11, one Zone 10, and one Zone 9 permit per day; up to four permits per day may be purchased for Zones 13 and 14.

Number of surplus permits available by zone

Zone

Surplus permits

9

1,410

10

9,092

11

7,770

13

2,526

14

2,619

How to buy a surplus permit

Surplus permits may be purchased online using MassFishHunt or in person at authorized license vendor locations

To purchase a surplus antlerless deer permit online:

  1. Log into MassFishHunt  with your last name and date of birth.
  2. Click the License Sales button at the bottom right of the screen.
  3. From the Main Menu, select Surplus Deer Permits.
  4. Click Add next to Surplus Antlerless Deer Permit.
  5. Click Select next to the zone for which you would like to purchase a surplus permit.
  6. If available, you may purchase additional permits for a different zone by repeating the steps above.
  7. Click Checkout on the bottom right of the screen and proceed to checkout.
  8. Print your permits after checkout.

Soaring towards success: 2021 peregrine falcon conservation in Massachusetts

This year, 2021 marks the 35th year that wild peregrine falcons have successfully nested here in Massachusetts since their reintroduction. Known for their dive speeds of over 240 miles per hour, these charismatic raptors fell victim to the effects of DDT and related pesticides in the late 1940s. Accumulation of DDT caused falcons and other birds to lay thin-shelled eggs that broke under the weight of incubation. By 1955, there was only one nesting pair remaining in Massachusetts and by 1966, falcons had completely disappeared from the eastern US. Restoration efforts began in 1972, coinciding with the ban of DDT. After a few unsuccessful releases of young falcons in the late 1970s, young falcons released in downtown Boston resulted in the first modern Massachusetts nest in 1987. MassWildlife biologists now estimate there are nearly 50 territorial pairs in the state. At least 920 wild-hatched chicks have fledged (flown) from nests in the state since restoration efforts began.  

Peregrine falcons nest on a wide range of modern structures including buildings, bridges, quarries, and cell towers. Each year MassWildlife visits nest sites and bands chicks in late spring and early summer. Leg banding provides biologists with useful information about the birds’ movements, lifespan, and injury recovery. In 2021, 55 chicks (31 female, 24 male) were banded at 19 sites across the Commonwealth. MassWildlife, along with partnering agencies, organizations, and individuals assist in restoration efforts by monitoring nests and chicks. The success of this effort would not be possible without a diverse community of partners from property managers to birders and the general public. Reports from the public help biologists identify new nest sites, track banded individual birds moving across the landscape, and  verify nesting success. Donations to MassWildlife's Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program also help support this important work. MassWildlife is truly fortunate to partner with an engaged and informed public.  

To get involved and learn more about peregrine falcons, please visit the links below:

Tully Trail agreement celebrated

Representatives from the Department of Fish and Game (DFG), MassWildlife, legislators, North Quabbin Trails Association, and other Tully Trail conservation partners gathered on August 26 at the Tully Mountain Wildlife Management Area (WMA) to mark the signing of a Trail License Agreement between MassWildlife and the North Quabbin Trails Association (NQTA).

Under the terms of the approved agreement, NQTA may conduct trail maintenance activities on six miles of trail segments of the 22-mile Tully Trail. These segments pass through MassWildlife’s Tully Mountain WMA and Tully Mountain Wildlife Conservation Easement in Orange and Fish Brook WMA in Royalston.

“MassWildlife is statutorily responsible for the protection and management of all fish and wildlife in the Commonwealth, and for providing hunting, fishing, trapping and other nature-based recreation opportunities to the public,” said DFG Commissioner Ron Amidon. “While trail development and maintenance are not a core responsibility, we recognize that passage across agency lands is important to maintain the connectivity of existing major trail networks. We are pleased to have approved the agency’s first Trail License Agreement with the North Quabbin Trails Association, which will provide for trail maintenance, wildlife habitat protection, and enhanced outdoor recreation opportunities.”

The 22-mile Tully Trail is a popular hiking trail in the North Quabbin region, passing through public and private property in Orange, Royalston, and Warwick. Much of the trail passes through public land protected or managed by MassWildlife, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust and The Trustees.

In 2016, MassWildlife and the Fisheries and Wildlife Board established a formal Walking Trails Policy designed to protect habitat for wildlife, largely in response to increasing unauthorized trail development and use on MassWildlife’s WMAs. MassWildlife does not develop or maintain walking trails on Wildlife Management Areas but through a Trails License Agreement, will allow maintenance and passage across agency lands to maintain connectivity of six identified existing regional walking trails in the state.

The recently signed Trail License Agreement with NQTA is the first Agreement to be signed with MassWildlife. It spells out the allowed trail maintenance activities and procedures to be carried out by NQTA in accordance with MassWildlife’s Trails Policy, regulations, and wildlife conservation mandate. Specifically, NQTA is authorized to:

  • blaze and sign trails year-round without notice to MassWildlife;
  • conduct seasonal trail maintenance activities pursuant to the Trail Maintenance plan after notifying MassWildlife; and
  • clear existing approved trails on an as needed basis after gaining pre-approval from MassWildlife on timing, location, and utilization of trail clearing tools and methods.

Currently, due to sensitive habitats on some portions of MassWildlife holdings, NQTA is engaged in a permitting process with state and local agencies allowing for re-routing a section of trail off a town road in Orange and providing a suitable stream crossing in Royalston.

MassWildlife has a long and proud history of supporting and promoting wildlife-related recreation through its traditional constituency of hunters, anglers, and trappers, as well as naturalists, birders, photographers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. Wildlife Management Areas are open to wildlife-related recreation and other outdoor activities such as walking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. MassWildlife is committed to providing opportunities for wildlife to thrive and to offering access for the conservation and outdoor recreation community now and into the future.

Invasive snakehead caught in Canton

On August 27, an angler caught a northern snakehead from Reservoir Pond in Canton. After obtaining and analyzing the specimen, MassWildlife confirmed this fish was a snakehead, an invasive species in Massachusetts. This fish was most likely released by a pet owner when it grew too large for its aquarium. Possession and liberation of snakeheads are both illegal in Massachusetts. Transferring exotic fish into local waterways can cause a host of problems, including competition with native species and spread of disease.

This recent catch is the fifth confirmed snakehead documented in Massachusetts since 2002. All snakeheads found in Massachusetts were adults, and MassWildlife has found no evidence of reproduction at any of the locations where the snakeheads were caught. During its routine fisheries sampling work, MassWildlife has visited over 7,900 locations statewide, documenting over 950,000 fish records since 1998 and has not captured any other snakeheads.

“While we are fortunate that snakeheads have not taken hold here in Massachusetts, this recent discovery highlights the need to focus on monitoring, education, and enforcement efforts to prevent the introductions of exotic species,” said Todd Richards, MassWildlife Assistant Director of Fisheries. Live fish may not be transported in Massachusetts without a permit, and liberation of all fish, including aquarium trade fish, into the wild in Massachusetts is prohibited without a permit from MassWildlife. Resource managers are concerned about the potential for snakeheads to reproduce and become established as a significant component of the fish community as a top predator, as they have in other states such as Maryland.  

Massachusetts anglers have played an important role in reporting snakeheads and other non-native species like piranha, pacu, and other escapees of the aquarium trade and illegal exotic introductions. Snakeheads will go after bait and lures, and with nearly 200,000 anglers out on the water, the fact that so few have been caught in the Commonwealth is reassuring.

Anglers may confuse snakeheads with other native species like bowfin (see image below for identification details). Anyone who captures a fish that can be confidently identified as a snakehead should keep the fish, kill it, and report it to MassWildlife by emailing mass.wildlife@mass.gov or calling 508-389-6300. MassWildlife encourages anglers who are less certain about the species of fish they have caught to send photos showing various angles of the fish. Under no circumstance should a suspected snakehead be transported to another location until identification is confirmed.

snakehead identification

 

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