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MassWildlife Monthly April 2018

Get the latest news and seasonal updates from MassWildlife

Seasonal updates
MassWildlife visits winter bear dens
Study on little brown bats continues
Peregrine falcon nest cameras are streaming!
MassWildlife biologist honored by Mass Audubon
Youth Artist from Acton Wins Junior Duck Stamp Contest
Freshwater Sportfishing Award winners announced
Be boat safe: Wear a life jacket

    Seasonal Updates

    • Time to go fishing!
      Get daily trout stocking updates from Mass.gov/trout, find freshwater fishing spots, or learn to fish with MassWildlife's Angler Education Program.
    • Get ready for spring turkey season
      Review hunting regulations and tips for a great season. Join MassWildlife experts from NWTF for a Learn to Hunt Turkey Calling Workshop on April 12. Register here.
    • Take your bird feeders down
      Black bears are now active and seeking food. Take precautions that will keep bears wild and out of neighborhoods.
    • Public hearings scheduled for April 10
      • The public hearing to establish rules and regulations for the 2018-2019 migratory game bird hunting seasons will be held April 10 at the MassWildlife FHQ in Westborough at 3 p.m. Learn more.
      • MassWildlife is proposing regulations to lengthen the archery deer season in zones 10-14. A public hearing will be held April 10 at the MassWildlife FHQ in Westborough at 7 p.m. Learn more.
    • MassFishHunt gets updated look 
      Next time you log into MassFishHunt to purchase your fishing/hunting license or report a harvest, you will notice MassFishHunt has a new look. These updates will not affect site functionality and you'll still be able to make purchases with ease! Log into MassFishHunt.

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    MassWildlife visits winter bear dens

    Each winter, MassWildlife biologists visit the dens of female black bears (sows) with radio tracking collars. Sows may be in the den alone, with newborn cubs, or with yearling cubs born the previous winter. Cubs born in the den this winter will stay with their mother all year and den again with her next winter, before dispersing as yearlings in April or May of the following spring. During a den visit, biologists assess the condition of the bears, count newborn cubs, and assess the survival of yearlings born the previous winter. By radio collaring sows, biologists learn about survival and reproductive rates. This information enables biologists to model whether the bear population in Massachusetts is growing, declining, or stable. GPS-tracking collars, which record a location every 45 minutes, provide biologists with important information about black bear habitat use and movements, and how bears are increasingly using human-dominated landscapes.

    Biologists locate the dens using telemetry equipment to listen for the female’s radio-collar signal. Winter dens may be a hollow log, rock crevice, or a ground nest under fallen trees or brush. Once the den is located, trained biologists immobilize the sow and examine the health of the bears. Information like body condition and weight are recorded, as well as the sex of the cubs. The sow’s radio-collar is evaluated for proper fit and replaced if necessary. Of the 20 female bears collared going into the 2017-18 denning season, 11 were expected to have newborn cubs, 8 to have yearling cubs, and 1, a two-year-old, to have no cubs.

    • Yearlings: By immobilizing females and their yearling cubs, biologists can collect important information on cub survival and growth after their first year. The 8 sows expected to have yearling cubs had a total of 22 newborns in the den last winter. This year, 16 cubs that survived the first year, for a survival rate of 73%.
    • Cubs: Newborn cubs are born small, blind, and helpless in the den in January. In order to give the mother a chance to bond with her cubs and for the cubs grow, MassWildlife waits until the end of February before visiting dens of sows with newborns. Biologists successfully immobilized 8 of the 11 sows expected to have newborns, plus one additional sow who was due to have a yearling cub with her, but lost it and had a litter of newborns. Some dens could not be visited due to inaccessible den locations. The sows had 1–4 cubs, with an average of 3. The cubs weighed between 2.75 and 7 pounds and averaged 4.3 pounds. There were 13 females and 8 males.

    Based on the survival and reproductive rates of females and the survival of their offspring, the bear population in Massachusetts is continuing to grow. Reports of bear sightings and nuisance complaints indicate that bear densities are increasing in central Massachusetts and the occupied bear range is moving east of I-495. This means that more of the human population in Massachusetts needs to learn how to coexist with black bears. You can help keep bears healthy and wild by not allowing bears to have access to food around your home or business. Removing bird feeders, securing garbage and compost, feeding pets inside, and securing beehives and chicken coops with electric fencing are just some ways to prevent conflicts with black bears. Bears that feed at bird feeders are being taught to look for food around people’s homes and in neighborhoods. This causes bears to spend more time in these places which can be a potentially dangerous situation for both people and the bears. Learn more: mass.gov/bears.

    Please click here to see more video footage of black bear winter den research.

     

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    Study on little brown bats continues

    Last year, 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 email Jennifer Longsdorf, Bat Conservation Project Coordinator, at jennifer.longsdorf@state.ma.us. Include the address, location, type of structure where the colony is (tree, building, attic, barn, shed, or other outbuilding), approximately how many bats are in the colony, and approximately how long the bats have been there. This information will be used to help conserve the state’s endangered population of little brown bats. Send in your reports before May 30 to be included in this year’s study. However, reports will be accepted throughout the year.

    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. We are especially interested in understanding the post-WNS status of little brown bat populations, including knowing the size and location of their colonies.

    Similar to 2017, we hope to partner with a contractor to survey little brown bat populations throughout Massachusetts, continuing the work initiated last summer by the Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI).

    During the 2017 summer bat maternity season (June–July), MassWildlife partnered with 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. Little brown bats were found at 9 of the approximately 30 sites surveyed. Little brown bats were detected acoustically at 6 locations, while 7 individuals were captured in mist nets. Three new maternity colonies were also located.   

    MassWildlife is committed to reducing the vulnerability of the surviving populations of little brown bats. This summer, MassWildlife will continue to capture and radio track these rare bats to maternity colonies at locations where the species was previously detected or reported. Additional roost sites that are located will also be monitored. Monitoring long-term population changes  greatly increases what is known about little brown bat populations in Massachusetts and will assist in their recovery.

    “This is a great opportunity for the residents of Massachusetts to help in the conservation of an endangered species right in their backyard,” says 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. Last year, over 100 reports were received from the public. Over one-third of the landowners who reported colonies last year were contacted for additional information and about one-fourth of the sites were visited by Biodiversity Research Institute.

    Learn more about white-nose syndrome in Massachusetts.

     

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    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.

    • Falcon camera at the Custom House in Boston Take a walk on the wild side with the peregrine falcons that have been nesting in the 496-foot tall Clock Tower at Marriott Vacation Club Pulse at Custom House, Boston for the past 19 years! Because this nest box is sheltered, it has one of the most successful records of chick production in the eastern U.S. A live feed allows bird lovers around the world to watch the falcons as they nest, tend to their eggs, and raise their chicks. There are 4 eggs in the nest, which are expected to hatch in about a month.
    • Falcon camera at the Monarch Place Building in Springfield This camera is expected to go live at the beginning of April. 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 Watch live video of the university’s resident peregrine falcon—the university’s honorary River Hawks—as they mate, hatch, and raise their chicks on top of Fox Hall. 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 the first week of April. 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 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 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 changed from endangered to threatened, reflecting the progress made over the past 35 years. Learn more about peregrine falcons in Massachusetts.

     

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    Freshwater Sportfishing Award winners announced

    Winners of the 2017 Freshwater Sportfishing Awards 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. Gold Pins are awarded to anglers who catch the largest fish in each species category. Check out selected photos of this year’s winners from the awards ceremony held in March or view a list of the top catches by species.

    Highlights for 2017:

    • Catch & Keep Adult Angler of the Year, Mark Mohan, Jr.of Pembroke, caught 12 of the 22 eligible species
    • Catch & Keep Youth Angler of the Year, Jason Bunar of Kingston, caught 21 of the 22  eligible species
    • Catch & Release Angler of the Year, Michael Nee of Northborough, caught 21 of the 22 eligible species
    • 2 new state records for bowfin were caught days apart by father and son in the Taunton River, read more
    • 12 new state records were awarded in the Catch & Release category

    The spring fishing season is here, and it’s the perfect time to take part in this year’s Freshwater Sportfishing Awards Program. When you think you’ve caught a trophy fish, take a photo, weigh or measure your fish, and submit your catch – it’s that easy! Get all the details about entering your catch.

     

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    MassWildlife biologist honored by Mass Audubon

    Carolyn Mostello is the Coastal Waterbird Biologist for MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. Her work focuses on restoring populations of coastal waterbird species, including American oystercatchers, common eiders, common terns, and endangered roseate terns. Through Carolyn’s dedication—and that of her project partners—the roseate tern population within Buzzard Bay has increased by 37% over the past eight years. Her latest feat was overseeing the restoration efforts of Bird Island off the coast of Marion. For decades, the sandy beaches on this 1.4-acre island have been turning into saltmarsh and salt pannes due to the coupling effects of an eroding seawall and rising sea level. These changes have caused common terns—which nest on the island’s beaches—to move inland on the tiny island, displacing the endangered roseate terns. Under Carolyn’s guidance, Bird Island has now been returned to its previous sandy-beach state, restoring critical nesting habitat for roseate terns.

    For her efforts, dedication, and hard work, Carolyn has been honored with Mass Audubon’s inaugural Hemenway + Hall Wildlife Conservation Award. Harriet Hemenway and Minna Hall founded Mass Audubon in 1896 as part of their campaign to stop the commercial killing of birds for feathers in fashionable hats of the time. This new award bearing their names recognizes an individual for “success in the preservation, enhancement, and restoration of a New England species and/or their habitat, as well as an enthusiasm for sharing information about their efforts and a commitment to inspiring future generations of conservation professionals.”

    Congratulations on this prestigious honor, Carolyn!

    Learn about roseate terns in Massachusetts.

     

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    Youth Artist from Acton Wins Junior Duck Stamp Contest

    Michelle Gong, a student of the Apple-Leaf Studio in Boxborough, won Best of Show in the 2018 Massachusetts Junior Duck Stamp (JDS) Contest. Her acrylic painting of two Canada Geese was selected from 387 entries. Gong’s award winning work will move on to the National JDS Contest to be held in Bismarck, North Dakata. Good luck Michelle!

    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.

     

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    Be boat safe: Wear a life jacket

    If you enjoy boating and fishing in the spring, remember that 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.

    Some tips to remember:

    • Make sure everyone – even experienced swimmers – wears a properly fitting, U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
    • Follow navigation rules, including maintaining a proper lookout and safe speed.
    • Never boat under the influence. Alcohol is responsible for 21% 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.

    Read more about boat safety and enjoy spring on the water! 

     

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