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MassWildlife monthly July 2017

Get the latest news and seasonal updates from MassWildlife

MassWildlife Open House welcomes over 2,000 visitors
Fish and Game Commissioner retires
Spring bling for eaglets
Register for Women in the Outdoors event
Terning around Bird Island
Report fish kills this summer
Antlerless deer permit application deadline July 16th
Apply online for 2017 Quabbin deer hunt
Learn to hunt waterfowl

MassWildlife Open House welcomes over 2,000 visitors
The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) held its second annual Open House on Saturday, June 10th with over 2,000 individuals and families attending. The event was held in cooperation with the Town of Westborough’s 300th Anniversary celebration activities. Visitors experienced and learned about a wide range of MassWildlife’s programs and projects through interactive displays, activities, and demonstrations.

Live animals including owls, hawks, turtles, snakes, and fish demonstrated how the agency works to protect both common and endangered wildlife in Massachusetts. MassWildlife vehicles were on site, including an airboat used for waterfowl research, a trout stocking truck, and an electrofishing boat. Equipment used for prescribed fire and other habitat management projects were also on display. Visitors were able to try outdoor activities like archery, BB gun shooting, simulated rifle shooting, and fly and spin casting. MassWildlife hosted a family fishing event nearby at Westborough Reservoir where people of all ages learned how to fish.

Bass Pro Shops of Foxborough donated a 10 ft. kayak, life jacket, and paddle for a free raffle that was won by Christian Tremblay of Westford. Overall, the Open House was a great success and fun was had by all. To see pictures of the event, visit MassWildlife’s Facebook Album. To view a short video of the event, check out Westborough TV’s Video.

Fish and Game Commissioner retires
On July 5, Commissioner George N. Peterson, Jr., of the Department of Fish and Game announced that he is retiring in early July. Peterson was appointed Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game (DFG) by Governor Charlie Baker in February of 2015. The Department of Fish and Game oversees the Commonwealth's marine and freshwater fisheries, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, plants, all endangered species, and the habitats that support them. Peterson is looking forward to spending more time with his family. “I am very grateful to Governor Baker for giving me the opportunity to serve as Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game,” said Peterson. “I will cherish the time I spent working directly with the professional staff on the issues I deeply care about—habitat conservation, fisheries management, ecological restoration, and enhancement of public access to the Bay State’s wildlife, lands and waters, and outdoor activities such as fishing and hunting.”

Prior to his appointment as Commissioner, Peterson served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives for 20 years, representing the 9th Worcester District, and was the Assistant Minority Leader when he left the House of Representatives. An avid recreational fisherman and hunter, George was a commercial fisherman for about five years and owned a small retail/wholesale seafood business for about 10 years prior to his legislative service. Married for over 40 years, he has four children and seven grandchildren, and resides in Grafton.

Matt Beaton, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, announced the appointment of Ron Amidon of Templeton as the new Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game effective in mid-July. Amidon, whose career has been in large scale construction management, has spent over 30 years actively involved in the Commonwealth’s sporting community. He has served as the President of the Otter River Sportsmen’s Club, Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Worcester County League of Sportsmen’s Clubs, President of the Gun Owners Action League, and Moderator of the Massachusetts Conservation Alliance. He is also very engaged with Ducks Unlimited and Trout Unlimited and has a strong interest in identifying coldwater habitats for trout, protecting wildlife habitat and supporting restoration of upland bird habitat.

Register for Women in the Outdoors event
Women in the Outdoors (WITO) is an event that provides interactive, educational, outdoor opportunities for women aged 13 and up. WITO is perfect for beginners, and with nearly 30 instructional classes, seminars, and activities, there’s something for everyone. Classes include Wilderness Survival, Birdwatching, Outdoor Photography, Rifle Marksmanship, Fly-Fishing 101, Game Processing, and many more. Organized by the National Wild Turkey Federation Central Massachusetts Chapter and sponsored in part by MassWildlife's Becoming an Outdoors Woman Program, the 2017 WITO event will be held on Saturday, July 29 at the Auburn Sportsman’s Club (50 Elm Street). Space is limited and registration is required.

Spring bling for eaglets
This spring, MassWildlife staff banded 29 eaglet chicks with two identification leg bands; an orange state band and a silver federal band. Some reports are still coming in, but the estimated number of eaglets fledging (surviving to fly from the nest) is at least 50 birds from 57 known active nests. MassWildlife’s eaglet banding season ended June 22, a very late date for a very remarkable reason. After a spring storm in early March destroyed their nest and eggs, a pair of eagles in Middlesex County rebuilt the nest in a nearby tree, successfully laid eggs, and hatched two eaglets. This is the first time eagle re-nesting has been reported in the Bay State. Eagle re-nesting is an extremely rare event due to the amount of energy required to rebuild a nest, lay eggs, and hatch chicks. MassWildlife tree climbing staff reported that the new nest located in a large pine near the Charles River was about five feet in diameter and solidly built. The few re-nesting reports from other parts of the country indicate that successful re-nesting occurs only when the event happens during the early egg laying period. To support the conservation of Bald Eagles and other rare wildlife, donate to the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Fund. Contribute by sending a check made payable to Commonwealth of MA: NHESP to MassWildlife, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581.

Terning around Bird Island
On June 21, 2017, the completion of an important island stabilization and endangered tern habitat restoration project on Bird Island was the focus of a gathering of federal, state, and local officials in the Town of Marion. Rising 10 feet above sea level, Bird Island has experienced erosion which drastically reduced critical nesting habitats for one of the largest populations of federally endangered terns in the country and threatened the historic lighthouse on the island (built in 1819). For well over a decade, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) within the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) has been working with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Town of Marion to stabilize the island, increase tern nesting habitat, and protect the lighthouse.

Bird Island hosts critically important nesting habitat for approximately 1,100 nesting pairs of federally endangered Roseate Terns. "This island is one of only three major Roseate Tern colonies in North America and one of two in Massachusetts," said MassWildlife Director Jack Buckley. "The Bird Island population represents 30% of the entire North American Roseate Tern population and 60% of the state's population. It's no surprise that this project is one of the highest priority restoration efforts on both the state and federal level." In addition, 2,500 pairs of Common Terns, a state listed endangered species, also nest on Bird Island. Over many years, the low lying graveled areas where terns prefer to nest began to flood and the amount of usable nesting space began to shrink. As the interior island areas flooded, former tern nesting areas turned into salt marsh, unsuitable for tern nesting. The more aggressive Common Terns responded by displacing Roseate Terns on the limited remaining nesting areas. Continued erosion also threatened the lighthouse and island itself.

To address these problems, the seawall around most of the island was redesigned and rebuilt to address projected sea level rise and reduce erosion. Gravel fill suitable for tern nesting raised the low areas, replacing the salt marsh habitat and adding additional tern nesting area. Native plants providing shade for terns were planted. A natural gravel road and pad around the lighthouse will physically support equipment needed to maintain the lighthouse.

Due to the size and nature of this project, federal, state, and local partners contributed funding, in-kind services, and a conservation easement conveyance. The total cost of the project was over $5.1 million. The USACE, through its Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Program, contributed 65% of the cost, planned, designed, and provided federal oversight of the project. "This has been a long, challenging, but ultimately satisfying experience," said Adam Burnett, USACE Project Manager. "Beginning with our feasibility study in 2002, designing and pulling together the funding partnership and working through two cold weather construction seasons, we have accomplished the goal of a restored and protected island habitat for the terns. It's not often we are able to see the benefits of a project so soon after construction completion. It's gratifying to see thousands of terns this spring nesting and hatching chicks."

On the state level, investment in the project was nearly $1.8 million. The New Bedford Harbor Trustee Council (consisting of the MA Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) invested $714,310. "Funding from the Council came from a settlement with the parties responsible for PCB contamination in 1993. This funding is designated to restore natural resources harmed as a result of that contamination, including terns," said Steve Block, New Bedford Harbor Council Coordinator. "Since 1999, the Council has provided funding to support the restoration of Common and Roseate Tern populations and the nesting habitat they need. We're very pleased to support the Bird Island project and other tern stewardship efforts on Ram and Penikese Islands."

Capital funding of $1,031,320 came from the Department of Fish and Game and $50,000 of in-kind staff time on the project was provided by DFG and MassWildlife. The Town of Marion provided valuable assistance through the Harbormaster's office. In addition, the town approved the conveyance of a conservation easement of the Bird Island property over to DFG/MassWildlife, ensuring protection and management of wildlife and public access in perpetuity.

Report fish kills this summer
Summer weather is here, lakes and ponds are warming up, and fish kills may occur. The sight of dead and dying fish along the shores of a favorite pond or river can be distressing and can prompt concerns about pollution. However, the vast majority of summer fish kills reported are natural events.

Natural fish kills are generally the result of low oxygen levels, fish diseases, or spawning stress. Depletion of dissolved oxygen is one of the most common causes of natural fish kills. Water holds less dissolved oxygen at higher temperatures; in shallow, weedy ponds oxygen can be especially low as plants consume oxygen at night. Spawning of fish such as Sunfish, Bluegill, and Largemouth Bass in late spring and early summer occurs in shallow waters along the shore. These densely crowded spawning areas become susceptible to disease outbreaks, especially as water temperatures increase. The result is an unavoidable natural fish kill, usually consisting of only one or two species of fish.

To be sure there isn’t a pollution problem, it’s always best to report fish kills. When a fish kill report comes in, a MassWildlife fisheries biologist determines if the kill is a natural event or the result of pollution. In general, pollution impacts all kinds of aquatic life; therefore, the most important piece of evidence for the biologists is the number and variety of fish associated with the incident. When pollution is the suspected culprit, MassWildlife notifies the Department of Environmental Protection, who then conducts a formal investigation of the water and affected fish to determine the source of pollution.

To report a fish kill, contact the Environmental Police Radio Room at 1(800) 632-8075. Learn more about fish kills here.

Antlerless deer permit application deadline July 16th

Deer hunters are reminded that the deadline to apply for an antlerless deer permit is July 16, 2017. This permit is required for any hunter who wishes to hunt antlerless deer. There is no fee to apply; a $5 fee is charged if you are awarded a permit during the Instant Award Period. The Instant Award Period begins August 1 at 8:00 A.M. and continues through December 31; this is NOT a first-come first-served system. If you have not yet applied, you may do so by logging into the MassFishHunt licensing system at mass.gov/massfishhunt and following these instructions, or by visiting a license vendor. If you are not sure you submitted an antlerless deer permit application, check your hunting license in the Item Purchased section where you will see a line item that reads: “Antlerless Deer Permit Application/Zone xx” if you have already applied OR log into MassFishHunt and check your customer inventory. Click here to learn more about the antlerless deer permitting process.

Apply online for Quabbin Deer Hunt
Beginning July 1st, applications for the 2017 Quabbin Controlled Deer Hunt will be available at the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) deer hunt web page (www.mass.gov/dcr/deerhunt). Click on the application box to begin the process; completed applications must be submitted by August 31th to be eligible for the lottery drawing in September. All applications must be submitted online. There is no longer an application fee.

Applicants can use any computer with internet access, including those at public libraries, to complete the application form. During the application period, staff at the Quabbin Visitor Center (485 Ware Road, Belchertown) will be available to assist hunters with the online application on Saturdays from 9:00 A.M. to noon and Wednesdays from noon to 3:00 P.M.

The 2017 Quabbin Controlled Deer Hunt will occur during the state shotgun season in the New Salem, Prescott, Pelham, and Hardwick sections of the Quabbin Reservation. Applicants may apply in groups with a minimum of two hunters and up to a maximum of six hunters on each application. On September 6th, approximately 1,100 permits will be drawn based upon hunter's license numbers. Successful applicants will receive written notification from the DCR by early October. For more information, please call the Quabbin Visitor Center at (413) 323-7221.

Learn to hunt waterfowl
Do you want to learn how to hunt for your own food? Would you like to learn about waterfowl hunting but have no one to teach you? Have you completed hunter education but aren't sure about the next steps?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, we have the perfect program for you! MassWildlife is offering a Learn to Hunt Waterfowl Workshop on Saturday, August 19 at Carver Sportsmen's Club that can provide you with the necessary training to become a safe and responsible waterfowl hunter. This free, one-day workshop is designed for new hunters to learn and practice waterfowl hunting skills including decoy placement, calling, shooting, retrieving your waterfowl, and many others.

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