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MassWildlife Monthly November 2017

News from MassWildlife

In this issue:

  • Hamant Brook restoration and dam removal underway
  • MassWildlife and NWTF partner to improve wildlife habitat
  • Drop off toys for kids in need at MassWildlife FHQ
  • Reminder for deer hunters: Don’t import deer from out of state
  • Trout spawning underway at state hatcheries
  • Youth Deer Hunt preliminary harvest report
  • Endangered turtles get a head start on life
  • George Peterson receives prestigious Francis Sargent Award


Hamant Brook restoration and dam removal underway

A multi-dam removal and habitat restoration project is underway at Hamant Brook in Sturbridge, MA. Hamant Brook is a coldwater stream running through 880 acres of protected municipal conservation land named the Leadmine Conservation Area. To restore ¾ of a mile of coldwater stream, three consecutive dams will be removed on Hamant Brook: the Upper and Middle Pond Dams, owned by the Town of Sturbridge, and the Lower Dam, owned by Old Sturbridge Village. The dam removals will eliminate a public safety hazard, improve water quality, reduce flooding risks, and restore habitat for native trout, endangered turtles, and other wildlife. Additionally, the project will improve parking and public access to a popular town conservation area with the installation of educational and trail kiosks. Public access to this site is prohibited while construction is underway.

“Investments in projects like this not only enhances ecological and safety values but also recreational value,” said Ron Amidon, Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game Commissioner. “Restoring the coldwater habitat here will furnish an exceptional opportunity for anglers to catch native brook trout.”

"This habitat restoration project enhances ongoing habitat management efforts by MassWildlife and other conservation-minded public and private landowners," said Jack Buckley, MassWildlife Director. "It also complements the state's collaborative land protection efforts in the Sturbridge area."

In 2006, MassWildlife obtained a Conservation Restriction from the Town of Sturbridge on the Leadmine Mountain Conservation Area. This effort nearly doubled the size of protected open space adjacent to MassWildlife’s own Leadmine Wildlife Management Area. This land conservation collaborative contributed nearly 2,000 acres of protected land open to the public in the southern part of Sturbridge.

The Hamant Brook Project also affords opportunities for scientists to document the effects of dam removal on a coldwater stream. Following the completion of the project, MassWildlife fisheries biologists will conduct surveys on a periodic basis to monitor the fish communities living in this important habitat over time. “These dam removals will improve water quality within Hamant Brook, reduce stream temperatures and improve the resiliency of the stream to the impacts of climate change,” said Todd Richards, MassWildlife Assistant Director of Fisheries. “The broader goal of the work is to improve water quality and habitat in the Quinebaug River.”

“The Hamant Brook restoration project is a success thanks to the great efforts of many partners. With the removal of these three dams, we not only permanently reconnect the stream habitat, but also multiply the public land conservation efforts and restore the former impoundments to improve water quality and restore coldwater habitat within a protected conservation area,” said Amy Singler, Project Manager at American Rivers.

Funding for the Hamant Brook Restoration Project is provided by Millennium Power and many other project partners, including the Massachusetts Environmental Trust and the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture.

View a fact sheet about the Hamant Brook Restoration Project.


MassWildlife and NWTF partner to improve wildlife habitat

The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) recently partnered with the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) on a wildlife habitat improvement project on MassWildlife’s Moose Brook Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Barre, MA. The Massachusetts Chapter of the NWTF financed the habitat management work and MassWildlife provided the technical planning and oversight. The project involved clearing trees and shrubs and removing invasive plants on an overgrown 3-acre parcel at Moose Brook. The open habitat created by this clearing expands the footprint of existing open habitat on the property and benefits a variety of wildlife, including the Wild Turkey for which the NWTF is named. Visitors to Moose Brook WMA will also benefit from a new parking area off of Sheldon Road, providing enhanced access to that portion of the WMA.

Many types of wildlife rely on open habitats like grassland, shrubland, and young forest­–all of which are declining in Massachusetts. The goal of MassWildlife’s Habitat Program is to create, restore, and maintain open habitats on public wildlife lands across the Commonwealth. Fortunately, these goals complement NWTF’s “Save the Habitat, Save the Hunt” initiative, which seeks to conserve and enhance critical wildlife habitat.

“We really appreciate this kind of support from conservation partners like the National Wild Turkey Federation. Their contribution makes a difference for wildlife,” said Jack Buckley, MassWildlife Director. “Restoring open habitat is a shared priority between MassWildlife and NWTF, as it benefits game birds like Wild Turkeys and Ruffed Grouse, as well as less common birds such as the Field Sparrow and Eastern Towhee.”

Wild turkeys use open habitats and young forests for nesting, breeding, and courtship activities. These habitats are also home to an abundance of insects, an important food source for brooding hens. Young turkeys also feed on these protein-rich insects in the summer, enabling them grow quickly to maturity.

“Massachusetts NWTF was proud to assist MassWildlife with the recent habitat improvement project at Moose Brook WMA. We recognize the vital importance that projects like this play in providing habitat for a variety of game and non-game species,” said Keith Fritze, NWTF Massachusetts Chapter President. “As our long history of cooperative projects with MassWildlife continues, we plan to identify additional opportunities that will enable us to utilize our members and membership dollars to further our current mission of ‘Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt.’ Thank you to MassWildlife for approaching us with this opportunity and to the NWTF members in Massachusetts for providing the funding that allows projects like this to come to fruition.”

Like all Wildlife Management Areas, Moose Brook WMA is open to the public for wildlife-related recreation, including hunting, fishing, trapping, and wildlife viewing. This 922-acre property is a popular destination for outdoor recreation, with brook trout fishing in Moose Brook, and hunting opportunities for game species like white-tailed deer, black bear, and turkey.


Drop off toys for kids in need at MassWildlife FHQ

Get in the holiday spirit by donating a toy to a child in need! MassWildlife’s Field Headquarters (FHQ), located at 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581, is now a Toys for Tots drop-off location. MassWildlife FHQ is open Monday through Friday, 8 AM – 4:30 PM, and will be accepting toys for children in need through December 8th. If you love the outdoors, consider passing on the tradition to the next generation with the gift of a fishing pole or pair of binoculars.

The mission of the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community in which the campaign is conducted. For the last 70 years, the United States Marine Corps has distributed over 542 million toys to more than 250 million children. This year, MassWildlife joins other partners in Worcester County as a toy drop-off location. Collected toys will be donated to children in need in Worcester County. If you want to help but don’t live nearby, find other Toys for Tots gift drop-off locations.

All gifts should be unwrapped. Toys for Toys will not accept realistic looking weapons or gifts with food. Worcester Toys for Tots is most in need of toys for: infant boys/girls ages 0–2; boys ages 9–11, 12+; and girls ages 6–8, 9–11, 12+. Barbie dolls, matchbox cars, stuffed animals, and toys for children ages 3–5 are least needed. To stay up-to-date with the Worcester Toys for Tots campaign, visit their website or follow them on Worcester Toys for Tots Facebook.


Reminder for deer hunters: Don’t import deer from out of state

To keep Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) from spreading to Massachusetts, it is illegal to import deer parts (from any deer species) from states or provinces where CWD has been detected. This includes OH, MD, NY, PA, VA, WV, and many other states – view a map of CWD in North America. Live deer of any species may not be brought into Massachusetts for any purpose. It is legal to bring in deboned meat, clean skull caps, hides without the head, or a fixed taxidermy mount.

CWD is a contagious neurological disease that is 100% fatal to all cervids, including deer, elk, and moose. It attacks the brains of infected animals, causing them to exhibit abnormal behavior, become emaciated, and eventually die. Infected deer can spread the infectious agents through urine, feces, saliva, etc. for months before showing clinical symptoms. The infectious agents are in very high concentrations in the brain and spinal tissue, so an infected carcass left on the landscape can be major problem. The infectious agents can remain in the soil for over 10 years and can be taken up into the leaves of plants that deer eat. No CWD infected deer have been found in Massachusetts.

If you see a deer or moose in Massachusetts exhibiting any signs of this disease or any other disease, please contact MassWildlife at (508) 389-6300.

Learn more about CWD


Trout spawning underway at state hatcheries

MassWildlife operates five fish hatchery facilities, located in Sandwich, Belchertown, Montague, Sunderland, and Palmer. Rainbow, brown, brook, and tiger trout are raised for stocking rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds throughout the Commonwealth. Each fall, approximately 1.5 million trout eggs are collected by MassWildlife fisheries and hatchery staff. Trained staff extract eggs from females and milt from males and combine them with water to begin the fertilization process. After incubating for about two months, the eggs will hatch into fry. After growing in the hatchery for 1.5–2.5 years, these trout will be ready for stocking statewide.

Youth Deer Hunt preliminary harvest report

The 2017 Youth Deer Hunt Day was held on September 30. This unique opportunity allows young hunters to hunt deer with their own permit during a special one-day season that precedes the Commonwealth’s regular annual deer hunting seasons. MassWildlife issued 1,225 youth permits and so far, approximately 100 harvested deer have been reported through the online MassFishHunt system. Deer reported at physical check stations will be tallied after the conclusion of the regular deer hunting seasons. Learn more about the Youth Deer Hunt Day.


Endangered turtles get a head start on life

Last month, 164 Northern Red-bellied Cooter hatchlings were paired with fostering institutions where they will live for the next eight months. These fostering institutions—including schools, museums, and non-profit organizations—are part of MassWildlife’s Red-bellied Cooter Headstart Program. The Headstart Program began in 1984 as a way for MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP) to help the survival of the species and increase awareness of endangered species in Massachusetts. This year is tied with 2001 for raising the most baby turtles since the headstarting program’s inception 33 years ago.

Over the next eight months, the walnut-sized fostered hatchlings are provided plenty of warmth and food, which encourages substantial growth throughout the winter when they would normally be inactive. In the spring, MassWildlife will release these turtles back into the wild. Headstarted turtles will potentially be the size of a grapefruit, greatly increasing their chance of survival in the wild. Larger turtles are less likely to be eaten by predators, giving these turtles a headstart at life.

Northern Red-bellied Cooters are a large freshwater turtle listed as endangered both through the Federal Endangered Species Act and the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. Since NHESP began the Headstart Program in 1984, over 4,000 headstarted cooters have been released back into the wild. Many of these released headstarted turtles have grown up and are now laying their own clutches of eggs. This year, 26 partnering institutions from across Massachusetts are fostering turtles.

Support efforts like this and NHESP by donating! Make checks payable to “Comm. of MA—NHESP” and mail to MassWildlife, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581.

George Peterson receives prestigious Francis Sargent Award

On October 4, 2017, George Peterson Jr, former House Representative and Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game, received the Francis W. Sargent Conservation Award from the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board for his contributions to the sporting community and to the conservation of the Commonwealth’s natural resources.

Peterson, a hunter and angler for most of his life, studied at the UMass Amherst Stockbridge School of Agriculture for a short time but went into the US Army in 1969 where he served for two years.  He worked with friends who were commercial fishermen in Gloucester and Rockport before becoming an owner of a small retail/wholesale seafood business in North Grafton. He first became involved in politics serving on the Grafton Planning Board and the Board of Selectmen. Elected as a state representative in the 9th Worcester District in 1994, Peterson sat on the Natural Resources and Agriculture and Rules Committees and served as the House Minority Whip and later as the assistant minority leader. His interest in the outdoors continued throughout his tenure in the Legislature, supporting legislation and other efforts to protect natural resources and promote outdoor recreation. Peterson was a strong advocate for the Blackstone River, participating in the 2000 Blackstone Expedition, a four-day paddle from Worcester to Providence. He retired from the legislature in 2014.

In February of 2015, Peterson was appointed Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game by Governor Charlie Baker. For over two years, he worked on the issues he cared deeply care about — habitat conservation, fisheries management, ecological restoration, and enhancement of public access to the Bay State’s lands and waters, and outdoor activities such a hunting and fishing.

View a list of past Sargent Award recipients.