MassWildlife Monthly December 2017

News from MassWildlife

In this issue:

  • MassWildlife can help landowners create young forests
  • Avoid decorating with invasive plants
  • DFG recognized for energy and sustainability initiatives
  • Special deer hunt for paraplegic hunters
  • Surveying for Lake Trout
  • Give a gift on the wild side
  • Threatened amphibian receives a helping hand
  • Reminder: submit completed hunting logs
  • Fishing education grant opportunity

 

 

MassWildlife can help landowners create young forests

As part of its commitment working with private landowners on wildlife habitat management, the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) is encouraging private or municipal landowners, land trusts, and conservation organizations to consider creating young forest habitat to benefit wildlife. To advance this conservation effort, MassWildlife’s habitat management staff is available to provide technical advice and guidance on financial assistance to qualified landowners.

Young forest habitats, areas of densely clustered tree saplings and sprouts, have become relatively scarce in Massachusetts over the past 50 years, and now occupy less than 4% of the forested landscape. MassWildlife's habitat goals call for 10-15% young forest to conserve wildlife that rely on this unique habitat including New England cottontail, American woodcock, ruffed grouse, and golden-winged warbler. The species have experienced decline and need young forests for nesting, foraging for food and evading predators. These same habitats are also used by many songbirds, and by game species such as white-tailed deer, wild turkey, and black bear.

How is young forest habitat created? Active habitat management activities such as cutting, burning or mowing are standard techniques used to create and maintain young forest habitats. Selecting the most appropriate methods for a particular property can be daunting. To assist landowners, MassWildlife’s habitat biologists can offer technical advice and direct qualified landowners to funding opportunities that best align land and wildlife goals for the property.

To address initial funding needs, MassWildlife partners with the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) which offers cost-sharing opportunities for habitat creation. To learn more about eligibility and the application process for these funding programs, contact Marianne Piché (508) 389-6313 marianne.piche@state.ma.us or Patrick Conlin (508) 389-6388 patrick.conlin@state.ma.us.

Visit youngforest.org for more information on the value of young forests to Massachusetts’ rare and common wildlife.

 
Avoid decorating with invasive plants

During holiday seasons, many people use plants to decorate their homes or businesses. Avoid using exotic, invasive plants such as Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) and Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) in holiday decorations. Though these plants are attractive, using invasive plants in decorations can impact native species and habitat. Birds eat and carry away the fruits from wreaths and garlands and the digested but still-viable seeds sprout where deposited.

Exotic, invasive plants create severe environmental damage, invading open fields, forests, wetlands, meadows, and backyards, and crowding out native plants. Bittersweet can even kill mature trees through strangling. Both plants are extremely difficult to control; when cut off, the remaining plant segment in the ground will re-sprout. It is illegal to import or sell bittersweet and Multiflora rose in any form (plants or cuttings) in Massachusetts. Learn more about invasive plants in Massachusetts and how they threaten our native species and natural communities.

You can learn more about invasive plants from our publication: "A Guide To Invasive Plants". In the Guide, each invasive plant description includes a photograph, the plant's regulatory status, key identification characteristics, habitats where the plant is likely to be found, types of threats the plant poses to native species and habitats, and its current distribution and place of origin. To purchase a guide from MassWildlife, stop in the Field Headquarters office in Westborough during business hours or send in our publication order form.

 

DFG recognized for energy and sustainability initiatives

At a State House ceremony on November 30, 2017, the Department of Fish and Game was recognized for its leadership in promoting clean energy and environmental initiatives with the Commonwealth’s 11th annual Leading by Example Awards. Eight awardees from state agencies, public colleges, municipalities, and public sector individuals were honored for policies and programs that created significant energy and emissions reductions, renewable energy installations, water conservation, and the implementation of sustainability initiatives that reduce the environmental impacts of state and municipal operations. Leading by Example (LBE) is an office of the Department of Energy Resources coordinating clean energy and environmental opportunities at facilities owned and operated by the Commonwealth.

The award recognized DFG’s energy saving projects at several facilities including MassWildlife’s McLaughlin Hatchery in Belchertown and the Division of Marine Fisheries’ Shellfish Purification Plant in Newburyport. Also acknowledged were its partnership efforts with MassDOT, DCR, Department of Corrections, Department of Mental Health and Mass Audubon to create pollinator-friendly habitats, land conservation and management programs and for its Westborough office building with an innovative zero net energy design.

“The Department of Fish and Game is proud to be recognized with the Leading by Example award for our efforts in promoting energy efficiency, renewable energy production, and conservation of water and open space,” said Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Ron Amidon. “We are also very grateful for the technical and financial assistance provided by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Department of Energy Resources that informs and supports these endeavors.”

 

Special deer hunt for paraplegic hunters

Since 1972, MassWildlife has offered paraplegic hunters the opportunity to participate in a special 3-day hunting season. Staff and volunteers place hunters in safe areas at several hunt locations in the state. When a hunter shoots a deer, volunteers assist the hunter by retrieving the deer, field dressing it, and getting it checked in on site.

This year's hunt was held November 2–4, 2017 at five sites statewide in the Northern Berkshires, the Southern Berkshires, the Quabbin Reservoir, Devens Reserve Forces Training Area in Lancaster, and Otis/Edwards Military Reservation in Falmouth. Sixteen hunters participated in this year's hunt and 3 deer were harvested (1 button buck and 2 bucks) for a 19% success rate. Many hunters saw deer and a good time was had by all.

“I’ve been honored to coordinate this hunt for the past 17 years assisting hunters in a recreational opportunity that they enjoy," said Trina Moruzzi, state coordinator for the hunt. "The hunt was yet another success due to the assistance and partnership of many volunteers, MassWildlife staff, DCR staff, and Military personnel at both Devens RFTA and Otis/Edwards MMR.”

Next year’s hunt will be held November 1–3, 2018. For more information please contact MassWildlife Field Headquarters at (508) 389-6300.

 

Surveying for Lake Trout

This fall, MassWildlife is sampling the Quabbin and Wachusett Reservoirs in an ongoing effort to monitor Lake Trout populations. Each year, with the help of DCR, MassWildlife collects Lake Trout from the Quabbin Reservoir to examine population characteristics. For the past few years, MassWildlife has also been sampling for Lake Trout at the Wachusett Reservoir. To capture Lake Trout, field crews set nets on spawning areas starting at sunset and check them about every 20 minutes. Captured fish are removed from the nets and placed in a livewell. Next, biologists record length, weight, and sex and implant a small Passive Integrated Tag (PIT) in the fish. Prior to release, the adipose fin is clipped to provide an external mark indicating that the fish has been captured before. Data collected provide biologists with an understanding of the current condition of Lake Trout populations. If fish are recaptured from previous tagging efforts, biologists can calculate individual growth rates. Lake Trout are long lived and slow growing and it is not uncommon for a tagged fish to be recaptured 10 years later. In fact, the longest recapture interval recorded was 24 years! When other species like Landlocked Salmon, Smallmouth Bass, Rock Bass, and White Perch are captured, biologists record information such as length, weight, and sex but do not implant PIT tags.

Lake Trout typically spawn in late October and November when the surface water temperatures are around or below 50°F. The spawning grounds are typically shallow, rocky waters on windy shores of the Reservoirs; spawning occurs mostly after dusk. Night sampling on big waters can be cold and icy in November, but the information it provides biologists is well worth the effort. Sampling efforts like this are just one way that MassWildlife monitors the health of the fish resources of the Commonwealth.

 

Give a Gift on the Wild Side!

Now is the time of year to think about the outdoor or wildlife enthusiast on your holiday list! Consider the following wildlife-related gifts available from MassWildlife.

  • MassWildlife Publications: A 2-year subscription to Massachusetts Wildlife magazine ($10) delivers eight full-color issues of the Commonwealth’s best wildlife publication. The magazine is packed with award-winning articles and photos on the environment, conservation, fishing, hunting, natural history, and just about everything related to the outdoors in Massachusetts. Find this and other great publications at our website.
     
  • 2018 Licenses: The sportsman or sportswoman in your life will appreciate a 2018 hunting, fishing, or sporting license and any supplemental stamps they will need (available December 1). License purchases support MassWildlife’s fish and wildlife conservation, management, and habitat protection programs. Go to MassFishHunt to make a purchase.
     
  • Charitable Donations: For the person who has everything, make a donation in his or her name to support one of the following funds.
    • The Wildlands Fund is dedicated to acquiring and conserving important wildlife habitat open to wildlife-related recreation. Send the honoree’s name with a check made out to Comm. of Mass – Wildlands Fund to MassWildlife, 251 Causeway St., Suite 400, Boston, MA 02114.
    • The Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Fund supports efforts to protect rare and endangered wildlife. Read rare species success stories made possible by the NHESP Fund. A donation in the form of a check made out to “Comm. of MANHESP” can be sent to MassWildlife: NHESP, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581.

 

Threatened amphibian receives a helping hand

The Eastern Spadefoot is a big-headed relative of toads with distinct cat-like eyes. It’s also listed as Threatened under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act due to habitat loss and the high number of individuals killed each year while crossing roads. MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program—with support from the Massachusetts Outdoor Heritage Foundation and its partnership with Sanofi Genzyme—initiated a project to help this amphibian increase its chances of survival in the Connecticut River Valley, where it is especially at risk.

Southwick Wildlife Management Area (WMA) was selected for establishing a new population of Eastern Spadefoot; however, a breeding pool had to be built at the site. In 2015, MassWildlife and its partners (Bristol County Agricultural High School, Westfield State University, and Southwick Department of Public Works) created three such pools. Water levels, vegetation, and local amphibians’ use were then monitored to confirm the pools would work well for spadefoots. MassWildlife biologists and a volunteer team of spadefoot monitors surveyed areas throughout the Connecticut River Valley to identify donor populations to collect eggs and tadpoles for transfer to the Southwick WMA pools. No adults were collected for this carefully managed introduction in order to avoid harm to the donor population.

Through 2015 and 2016, Massachusetts was experiencing a multiyear drought. The secretive animals remained in their underground burrows for days to weeks at a time, emerging only to feed when nighttime temperature and moisture were suitable. Then, in late March and early April 2017, frequent and prolonged rains finally came and filled traditional spadefoot breeding pools. Temperatures were too cold for breeding at the time, but a 2-day heatwave in mid-April soon changed that. Low-pitched, raucous squawks—like the calls of juvenile crows—filled the night air as the spadefoots emerged in unison. They gathered by the dozens at local breeding pools scattered across parts of Massachusetts. Fortunately, their effort at our most preferred donor site was substantial, presenting the first opportunity to introduce eggs to the constructed pools at Southwick WMA.

Some eggs were transferred directly to the pools, while others were held for captive rearing (commonly termed headstarting) at Bristol County Agricultural High School to boost survival to later developmental stages. The donor pool dried rapidly in the absence of additional, heavy rains, and so most of its spadefoot tadpoles were transferred to Southwick WMA while others were headstarted at MassWildlife. Headstarted animals (mature tadpoles and young froglets) were ultimately released to both the donor site and to Southwick WMA later in the spring.

During a monitoring visit in September, MassWildlife biologists observed two plump, juvenile spadefoots at Southwick WMA. This confirmed that some of the introduced animals had survived, and they were growing at an exceptional rate. With this early sign of success, additional introductions of Eastern Spadefoot eggs, tadpoles, and headstarted froglets to Southwick WMA are planned for 2018 and beyond.

Learn more about the Eastern Spadefoot.

 

Reminder: Gamebird hunters and archery deer hunters send us your completed logs

If you completed a MassWildlife log while hunting game birds or during archery deer season, it’s time to send them in. Hunters who submit completed logs before December 20, 2017 will be entered in a drawing to win a blaze orange MassWildlife cap or a Massachusetts Wildlife 1-year magazine subscription. You can email scanned logs to mass.wildlife@state.ma.us or mail completed forms to:

MassWildlife
Attn: Game bird hunting log / Archery deer hunting log
1 Rabbit Hill Road
Westborough, MA 01581

125 winners will be randomly selected to receive hats and 25 winners will be randomly selected to receive magazine subscriptions. Prizes will be mailed to the address provided by the hunter on the completed hunting log. If you didn’t completed a hunting log this year, consider it in 2018 and check out MassWildlife’s other citizen science opportunities.

 

Fishing education grant opportunity

MassWildlife is seeking qualified applicants to recommend for a national, competitive grant to bring conservation education and fishing experiences to Hispanic families through the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF)'s George H.W. Bush Vamos A Pescar™ Education Fund. The Fund supports state and local efforts to educate and engage families in high-density Hispanic communities through fishing programs, classes, and activities.

In honor of President George H.W. Bush, Bass Pro Shops Founder and CEO Johnny Morris donated $125,000 in 2014 to bring conservation education and fishing experiences to Hispanic families in key metropolitan areas of Texas and Florida. With the help of donations from other companies and organizations, this fund has continued to grow and expand nationally to keep future generations educated about the joys of fishing and boating and the importance of conservation. For Hispanic families, fishing provides an opportunity to spend time together, away from the distractions and stress of everyday life. It’s an activity that the whole family can participate in, from the youngest of children to the eldest of grandparents. The purpose of these grant funds is to educate and engage families living in high-density Hispanic communities through fishing programs. Programs must be family-focused and gender inclusive, take place in metro areas, and encourage participation across multiple generations. While a majority of participating families will be Hispanic, the event will be open to families of all races and ethnicities.

RBFF partners with state fish and wildlife agencies, such as MassWildlife, to sub-grant funds to local organizations. Grant recipients will be required to provide 1:1 cash matching funds. MassWildlife will recommend Massachusetts applications for funding consideration to RBFF. The final selection of grantees will be made by the Education Fund Advisory Board (this advisory board is not affiliated with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts). Please note, there is no guarantee that a Massachusetts organization will be selected for funding.

Responses to the Request for Proposals must be postmarked on or before Thursday, December 7, 2017 or emailed by midnight on Thursday, December 7, 2018. Click here for application materials.

If you have questions about this grant opportunity, please contact Jennifer Ford of MassWildlife at jennifer.ford@state.ma.us or (508) 389-6329.

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