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MassWildlife Monthly March 2018

News from MassWildlife

Black bears are active and searching for food: take precautions
Spring trout stocking
Extended archery deer season proposed
Spotted Turtle focus of new grant
Don't miss MassWildlife Facebook posts
Go wild on your taxes this year

Black bears are active and searching for food

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 backyard 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. For those people who enjoy birds in their yard, MassWildlife suggests growing native plants, shrubs, and trees to attract birds. Adding a water feature is a big draw for birds. Taking these actions may increase the diversity of birds you see and will prevent the unnatural feeding of bears and other kinds of neighborhood wildlife.

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 Mass.gov/Bears for detailed information and do your part to keep bears wild!

Spring trout stocking

Close to 500,000 brook, brown, rainbow and tiger trout will be stocked this spring from MassWildlife’s five hatcheries located in Sandwich, Palmer, Belchertown, Sunderland, and Montague. These fish, coupled with the more than 65,000 fish stocked last fall, will provide some excellent fishing in the coming months. Stocking is scheduled to begin in the southeastern area of the state during the first full week of March with other regions of the state expected to follow soon after. Anglers can get daily stocking updates at Mass.gov/Trout, or contact individual district offices for the latest stocking information.

2018 spring trout stocking stats:

  • Most of the trout will be over 12 inches
  • More than 40%  of the trout will be over 14 inches
  • More than 51,000 brook trout will be over 12 inches
  • More than 45,000 brown trout will be over 12 inches
  • More than 200,000 rainbow trout will be over 14 inches
  • More than 1,200 brown trout will be over 18 inches
  • More than 500 brook trout will be over 15 inches
  • More than 2,500 tiger trout  will be over 14 inches

Extended archery deer season proposed

Rescheduled — Due to the forecasted storm, the March 7 public hearing to extend the archery deer season in eastern Massachusetts has been rescheduled for April 10 at 7 p.m. at the MassWildlife Field Headquarters, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA. Read more.

The proposal is to open the archery deer season two weeks early in eastern Massachusetts (Wildlife Management Zones 10–14). Click here to find more information about the public hearing, learn how to provide a public comment, and read proposed regulatory language.

The current archery deer season opens across the state six weeks before Thanksgiving and closes the Saturday after the holiday. The proposed change opens the archery deer season in WMZs 10–14 eight weeks before Thanksgiving. In WMZs 1–9, the archery deer season would remain the same, opening six weeks before Thanksgiving. The proposed season change will increase hunting opportunities in a region where deer numbers are above management range goals. No changes were recommended for WMZs 1–9; deer numbers in those zones are within management range goals. Click here to learn more about deer management.

The Fisheries and Wildlife Board will accept written public comment on the proposal at any time prior to the public hearing and for an additional two weeks after the hearing. Written and oral comments are accepted at the public hearing. Comments (both oral and written) must focus on the proposed regulation. Written comments can be mailed to:

Chairman, Fisheries and Wildlife Board, c/o MassWildlife Director
Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581

Public comments by e-mail may be sent to Susan.Sacco@state.ma.us, Attn: Fisheries & Wildlife Board. 

Spotted Turtle focus of new grant

MassWildlife will receive $40,000 in Competitive State Wildlife Grant funds to focus on Spotted Turtle conservation and management efforts within Massachusetts. Funds received by Massachusetts are part of a multistate, collaborative effort to develop a status assessment and adaptive conservation plan to support healthy Spotted Turtle populations and manage habitat from Maine to Florida. 

Spotted Turtles range from southern Maine and Quebec, westward to Illinois, and southeast to northern Florida. Although widespread in the eastern United States, it’s an uncommon—but not rare—species in Massachusetts. Once listed as a Species of Special Concern under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act, Spotted Turtles were removed from the list in 2006 due to a widespread distribution in the state and the existence of relatively stable populations in southeastern Massachusetts. However, residential development construction alters the wetlands and upland habitats that Spotted Turtles rely on. Monitoring, and properly managing, Spotted Turtle populations in southeastern Massachusetts is important to the long-term persistence of the species throughout the region. MassWildlife biologists will use grant funds over two years to assess the population status of Spotted Turtle across the state, restore habitat at regionally significant sites, coordinate a regional genetics study, and assist in the development of a Spotted Turtle Regional Conservation Plan. 

Spotted Turtles are relatively small, reaching only five inches in length. Their name comes from the distinctive bright yellow spots that dot their otherwise black carapace (the top of their shell). The pattern and number of spots is unique to each turtle and can be used to identify individuals. Spotted Turtles occupy a wide range of shallow, seasonal, and temporary wetlands in Massachusetts, including vernal pools, shrub swamps, cranberry bogs, emergent wetlands, and ditches. Spotted Turtles can be hard to find; their cryptic behavior and preference for ephemeral and seasonal wetlands means that these turtles are encountered much less often than the widespread and common Painted Turtle and Snapping Turtle. However, they are native to all of Massachusetts’ counties and are found on many offshore islands, including both Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

Don't miss MassWildlife Facebook posts

Facebook recently announced it was making changes to its News Feed which will impact how users see posts from business and government pages they follow. Facebook plans to prioritize posts from friends and family in the News Feed over public content (such as content shared by publishers, brands, businesses, or media). With a few quick steps, you can update your preferences to make sure you don't miss posts from MassWildlife's Facebook page:

  1. Visit Facebook.com/masswildlife
  2. Click the "Following" drop down menu
  3. Select "See first" under "In your news feed"
  4. Select "All on" under "Notifications"

Watch this video for more help changing your preferences. By taking these steps, you'll continue to see MassWildlife posts in your News Feed and stay up to date on the latest fish and wildlife news in Massachusetts! 

Go wild on your taxes this year

Tax season is here, meaning it’s a great time to help keep Massachusetts wild! One easy way to help endangered animals and plants in the state is by donating on your state tax return. Simply fill in the amount you would like to donate on Line 33A for Endangered Wildlife Conservation. All the monies donated go to the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Fund, a fund dedicated specifically to the conservation of rare species. This Fund supports MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program, responsible for the hundreds of species that are listed as endangered, threatened, or of special concern in Massachusetts.

Despite its status as the nation’s symbol, Bald Eagles were targeted and killed for the better part of a century. This intentional killing, coupled with habitat loss and pollutants like DDT, caused breeding Bald Eagles to disappear from Massachusetts in the early 1900s. Beginning in 1982, MassWildlife and its partners began to relocate young eagles from Michigan and Canada to an area overlooking the Quabbin Reservoir in efforts to reestablish breeding pairs in the state. These relocated eagles were raised by a wildlife management practice known as hacking, in which young birds of prey are raised in an outdoor cage with no direct human contact and later released into the wild. The eaglets came to view the area around the Quabbin as their home turf and when they matured, some of the hacked eagles established breeding territories at the reservoir. In 1989, eight decades after the last historic Bald Eagle nest was observed in Massachusetts (on Snake Pond in Sandwich), three chicks fledged from two Quabbin nests. Fast forward to 2017, when 68 territorial pairs of Bald Eagles were observed in Massachusetts—this is the highest number of territorial pairs since their reintroduction.

While Massachusetts has made considerable progress, 427 plants and animals are still recognized as rare in the state. MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program is the first line of defense for Massachusetts’ most vulnerable plants and animals. Donating to the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Fund ensures continuing conservation for these rare species.

Already filed your taxes, but still want to donate? Contributions can be made directly by sending a check made payable to “Commonwealth of MA—NHESP” to MassWildlife, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed thus far!

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