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MassWildlife monthly April 2017

Get the latest news and seasonal updates from MassWildlife

Save the date: MassWildlife Open House – June 10, 2017
Spring turkey season opens 4/24: hunting reminders and safety tips
Youth artist from Boxborough wins Junior Duck Stamp Contest
Public comment on Priority Habitat Maps now open
Peregrine falcon nest cameras
Boat safe: wear a life jacket
MassWildlife staff accomplishments and research
Black bears are active and searching for food: take precautions


Save the date: MassWildlife Open House - June 10, 2017

Mark your calendars for an Open House at MassWildlife Field Headquarters (1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough) on Saturday, June 10 from 10:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. Experience the range of MassWildlife programs through interactive displays and demonstrations. Try your hand at outdoor skills like archery, target shooting, and fly or spin casting. Get an up-close look at live animals including owls, hawks, turtles, snakes, and fish. Learn about endangered species research, how to attract backyard birds to your yard, and where MassWildlife is stocking trout. All this and a free BBQ!

During the Open House, visitors can head over to nearby Westborough Reservoir (Sandra Pond) to learn how to fish from 10:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. MassWildlife staff will be there with equipment and bait. No license required!

This year’s Open House is being held in cooperation with the Town of Westborough's 300th Anniversary. Admission and all activities are FREE. This event is perfect for families and wildlife enthusiasts of any age! There is a rain date of June 11.

Spring turkey season opens 4/24: hunting reminders and safety tips

The spring turkey hunting season opens in Massachusetts on April 24, 2017 and runs through May 20, 2017. MassWildlife offers the following information for turkey hunters regarding regulations, harvest reporting, and safety.

Turkey permits. In order to legally hunt wild turkeys, a 2017 hunting or sporting license and wild turkey hunting permit is required. Licenses and turkey permits are available via the MassFishHunt system or at license vendors.

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.

Harvest reporting. Immediately following harvest, hunters must fill out and affix the tag from their turkey permit to the turkey. The turkey must be reported either online via the MassFishHunt system or at a traditional check station within 48 hours of harvest and before the bird is processed for food or taxidermy. The MassFishHunt system generates a confirmation number which must be written on the harvest tag attached to the turkey; the confirmation number serves as the official seal. The tag (or metal seal from a check station) must remain on the bird until it is processed for food or taxidermy.

Young adult turkey hunters. Young Adult Turkey Hunt Permits will NOT be mailed to youth hunters. All young adults participating in the hunt must obtain the Youth Turkey Hunt permit and certificate through the MassFishHunt system. To obtain your permit/certificate, all past participants must fill out and return the past participant form. Those who harvest a turkey on the Young Adult Turkey Hunt date (April 22, 2017) must report their harvest either online on MassFishHunt or at a traditional check station within 48 hours.

Turkey Hunting Safety Tips:

  • 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.
  • Don’t 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.
  • Maintain good sportsmanship and ethics. Share the woods with your fellow hunters and other users. Acknowledge and thank landowners who grant you permission to hunt on their lands.

Public comment on Priority Habitat Maps now open

The Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (MESA) protects rare species and their habitats. Through MESA regulations, MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP) creates a Priority Habitat map, which represents the known habitat for rare species within the Commonwealth. The NHESP reviews projects and activities proposed within Priority Habitat to reduce impacts to MESA-listed species.

Priority Habitats are based on occurrences—within the last 25 years—of MESA-listed species. The Priority Habitat map has been recently updated. Changes to the MESA species list, an improved understanding of species biology and habitat requirements, and the use of improved mapping tools are also reflected. A draft of the latest Priority Habitats will be available for a 60-day public comment period, starting April 3, 2017. Once the comment period ends and relevant revisions are made, the final Priority Habitat map will be available online. Visit for more information, including the draft maps.

Changes in the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (MESA) list of rare plants and animals.

On March 10, 2017, changes were made to the MESA species list involving 21 species of animals and plants. Nine species were delisted, eight species had a change in status, and four species were added to the list. Because the status of rare and vulnerable species can change due to many factors, the MESA list undergoes periodic review conducted by MassWildlife scientists and external experts. Any changes to the list are brought to the NHESP Advisory Committee and the Fisheries and Wildlife Board for approval. Changes to the MESA list are based on three primary criteria: species rarity, population trends, and threats to the species in Massachusetts.

Youth artist from Boxborough wins Junior Duck Stamp Contest

Lilac Shi, a student of the Apple-Leaf Studio in Acton, won Best of Show in the 2017 Massachusetts Junior Duck Stamp Contest. Her acrylic painting of a Canada Goose was selected from 336 entries. Shi’s award-winning work will represent Massachusetts’ entry in the national JDS Contest.

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 importance of wetlands for wildlife. In April, MassWildlife will host an awards ceremony for the top 100 winning artists at the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife Field Headquarters. A combination of the top 100 artworks will be exhibited throughout Massachusetts from May 2017 through April 2018.

The Massachusetts JDS Program is sponsored by MassWildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). You can support the JDS Program and wetland conservation by purchasing Junior Duck Stamps featuring national winners from previous years. Visit the MassWildlife website to learn more about the Massachusetts Junior Duck Stamp Program.

Peregrine falcon nest cameras

It’s nesting season for Peregrine Falcons! The Peregrine Falcon is a great example of a species that has benefited from the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act and the work of the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program (NHESP). The NHESP recently changed the status of this species from Endangered to Threatened to reflect the progress that has been made. Get an inside look at one of the live nest cameras in the state:

  • Falcon camera at the Custom House in Boston Five eggs have been laid in Boston at the nest in the Marriot Custom House Clock Tower. A live feed allows bird lovers around the world to watch the falcons as they nest, tend to their eggs, and raise their chicks. Eggs are expected to hatch sometime during Earth Week, April 16–22. This spring marks the 19th year Peregrine Falcons have nested in the 100-year-old Clock Tower. Because the nest is completely within the tower and protected from the weather, it’s the most successful nesting site in the eastern U.S. The current adult birds are the sixth female and fourth male to use the nest box site. More than 30 years ago, as part of a national falcon restoration effort, several falcon young were first released in Boston by wildlife officials and bird conservationists.
  • Falcon camera at the Monarch Place Building in Springfield This camera is live. Peregrine Falcons began nesting on the ledge of Monarch Place in Springfield, MA, in 1989. Through the years, they have produced more than 30 offspring. A nesting box was permanently attached to the side of the building to safeguard the eggs and falcons.
  • Falcon camera at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell on the Fox Hall Dorm This camera is live. The female falcon, Merri, was able to find a new mate after her previous one, Mack, died unexpectedly in June of 2014.
  • Falcon camera at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst on the Du Bois Library Tower This camera is expected to go live on April 10. Peregrine Falcons have successfully nested on the roof of the Du Bois Library at UMass Amherst since 2003.
  • The Lawrence Peregrines website features a blog on Peregrine Falcons and links to a Peregrine Falcon nest camera in Lawrence, MA and cameras in other states: NH, CT, RI, NY, PA, MD, NJ, DE, IN, ID.

Prior to the use of DDT, a pesticide once commonly used, there were 375 nesting pairs in the eastern United States. The last 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 Endangered Species Conservation Act. DDT was banned in 1972.

After being established by the legislature, Peregrine Falcon restoration became the NHESP’s first new project in the early 1980s. 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 monitor nests and places leg bands on the chicks. Banding provides data relating to dispersal, longevity, and recovery

Boat safe:  wear a life jacket

People enjoy boating and fishing in the spring, but a nice spring day can quickly become hazardous if you end up in cold water. According to the Massachusetts Environmental Police, most boating fatalities in the Commonwealth result when boaters fail to wear life jackets while in small craft in cold water or weather. Paddlers in canoes and kayaks are required to wear life jackets from September 15 – May 15. Please click here to read more about boat safety.

The Wear It! Campaign unites the efforts of a wide variety of boating safety advocates and is produced under a grant from the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, administered by the U.S. Coast Guard. The Wear It! Campaign reminds boaters to:

  • Make sure everyone – even experienced swimmers – wears a properly fitting U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket appropriate for the water activity.
  • Follow navigation rules, such as maintaining a proper lookout and safe speed.
  • Never boat under the influence. Alcohol is responsible for 21 percent of boating fatalities.
  • Keep in touch. Cell phones, satellite phones, emergency position radio beacons, VHF radios and personal locator beacons can all contribute in an emergency.
  • Don’t panic if you fall into the water. Stay afloat with the help of your life jacket, regain control of your breathing, keep your head above water in vision of rescuers, and stay with the boat if possible.

MassWildlife staff accomplishments and research

Everose Schlüter, MassWildlife’s Chief of Regulatory Review with the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, received the Environmental Service Award for Outstanding Public Service from the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions at their recent 2017 Annual Environmental Conference. The award honors individuals who have made outstanding contributions toward environmental awareness and resource protection in Massachusetts or contributed significant time and energy toward environmental protection.

Michael Nelson, Invertebrate Biologist with MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, recently co-authored a research article with Paul Z. Goldstein of the National Museum of Natural History on the association of two moths with Beach Plum. The Dune Noctuid Moth (scientific name, Sympistis riparia) and the Coastal Heathland Cutworm Moth (Abagrotis benjamini) are both species of Special Concern in Massachusetts and live among dunes and other coastal habitats with sandy soil. Details of their natural history were poorly understood until recently. Moths in the genus Sympistis often need specific plants to feed on as a caterpillar. For the first time, the authors documented Beach Plum (Prunus maritima) as a host plant for caterpillars of both species. The Dune Noctuid Moth may feed only on Beach Plum. Nelson and Goldstein’s research also resulted in elevating the Coastal Heathland Cutworm (Abagrotis benjamini) to full species status based on body features and DNA analysis. It was formerly considered a subspecies (or form) of Abagrotis nefascia, which is found in western North America. The citation for this article is: Goldstein PZ and Nelson MW. 2017. Two Psammophilic Noctuids Newly Associated with Beach Plum, Prunus martina (Rosaceae): The Dune Noctuid (Sympistis riparia) and Coastal Heathland Cutworm (Abagrotis benjamini) in Northeastern North America (Lepidoptera, Noctuidae). ZooKeys 661: 61–89.

Tom French, Assistant Director of MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, recently wrote an article outlining the demise and subsequent recovery of Bald Eagles in Massachusetts. Eagles were not recorded as being seen in the state until 1864, along the Connecticut River. Their time in Massachusetts was short-lived. The last observations of nesting eagles were recorded between 1900 and 1920. It wasn’t until the 1980s that Bald Eagles were reintroduced to the state. In 1989, the first wild-born chicks were hatched in Massachusetts since the early 1900s. As of 2016, there are 57 known nesting pairs in Massachusetts. Since the inception of recovery efforts, 646 wild-born chicks have fledged. The citation for this article is: French, Tom. 2016. The History of Bald Eagle Decline and Recovery in Massachusetts. <em>Bird Observer</em> 44(16): 389–407. Reprinted with permission from Bird Observer.

Black bears are active and searching for food: take precautions

Black bears are now active and seeking food. If you live in northern Middlesex County, Worcester County, western MA, or other areas where bears have been spotted, it's time to take down your bird feeders. Bears will often ignore natural foods such as skunk cabbage in favor of an easy meal at a back yard bird feeder. To avoid this problem, MassWildlife asks property owners to be proactive by removing bird feeders and other potential food sources including garbage or open compost. Individuals should also properly secure bee hives, chickens, and livestock.

There are at least 4,500 Black Bears in Massachusetts and their range is expanding eastward. Take action by educating yourself and your neighbors about proactive measures to avoid conflicts with bears. Visit for more detailed information and do your part to keep bears wild!