MassWildlife recently reported that a record 240 bears were harvested statewide during last year’s split fall season. Some 203 were taken in September and 37 in November. In total, 132 males and 107 females were taken. The harvest breakdown by county is as follows: 78 in Berkshire; 56 in Franklin; 51 in Hampden; 43 in Hampshire; 4 in Middlesex; and 8 in Worcester.
Last year’s harvest represents a 62% increase over the previous year total of 148 and nearly a 30% increase over the previous record of 185 which were bagged in 2012. There were some real brutes taken this year with a couple of them estimated to weigh over 500 lbs live weight.
This increased harvest appears directly related to the upsurge in the bear population. It comes as no surprise to bear hunters who predicted as much when Question 1 was passed in the 1990’s. That law made it illegal to use bear hunting dogs or bait to attract bears, presumably resulting in fewer bears taken. Now it is estimated that there are over 5,000 of them living in the Commonwealth and the numbers are growing rapidly. They are expanding eastward and if their numbers are not controlled will become a nuisance in the heavily populated towns there.
The Fish & Wildlife Board is keenly aware of this pending problem and has taken steps to address it. It knows that hunters play a vital role in controlling the numbers of bears. Board Chairman George (Gige) Darey of Lenox reported that it voted to make changes to the Black Bear hunting regulations. Pending regulatory approval, the zone restrictions will be removed during the Black Bear hunting season. Prior to this year, bear hunting was only allowed in Zones 1 through 9 (of the 14 zones). Also, bear hunting will be allowed in all zones during the shotgun deer hunting season. All shotgun deer hunting regulations will apply, such as hunting only with shotguns, bows or muzzleloaders (no rifles), the wearing of hunter orange, etc.
These new changes, anticipated to become effective this year, have not been included in the 2015 Hunting and Fishing abstracts. They still will have to proceed through the regulatory process, but it is expected that regulators will sign off on them. *****
Beginning this Thursday and running through Sunday, the Big E Sportsmen’s Show will take place at 1305 Memorial Ave., West Springfield. The hours are as follows: Thursday from 3PM to 8PM, Friday from 12 Noon to 8PM, Saturday from 9AM to 7PM and Sunday from 10AM to 5PM. Admission fees: Adults – $13, Kids 6 to12 – $5 and under 6 free. This sportsmen’s show is loaded with hunting, fishing, boating, and outdoor recreation activities. For more information, visit the Springfield Sportsmen’s Show website. *****
And now for the youngsters:
On March 7 there will be a Growing Up WILD Professional Development Workshop at the MA Audubon’s Pleasant Valley Sanctuary, 472 West Mountain Road, Lenox. Pre-school educators are invited to this 6-hour workshop that focuses on early childhood education. The Growing Up WILD Activity Guide builds on a children’s sense of wonder about nature and invites them to explore wildlife and the world around them. Click onto mass.gov/eea/agencies/dfg/dfw/education-events, or contact Pam Landry at firstname.lastname@example.org or (508) 389-6310 for registration details. The registration deadline is February 20. ****
There is a contest which recognizes teachers and students who inspire their communities by exploring challenging environmental and energy issues. Nominations for Massachusetts public or private school-based programs that promote environmental and energy education will be accepted until March 27. Program topics can include wildlife and natural resource conservation, ocean science, and other related subjects. The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs will review applications through mid-April and announce the winners later in the spring. Contact Meg Colclough at (617) 626-1110 or email@example.com for more information. ****
There is still time to enter the Massachusetts Junior Duck Stamp (JDS) contest. Any student, from kindergarten through grade 12, regardless of whether they attend public or private school or are home-schooled, can submit original artwork in this fun and educational competition. The entry deadline is March 15.
The JDS program links the study of wetlands and waterfowl conservation with the creation of original artwork. Students in grades K-12 learn about the habitat requirements of various kinds of ducks and geese and then express their knowledge of the beauty, diversity, and interdependence of these species artistically, by creating a drawing or painting and submitting it to the JDS art contest. The art is judged in four age group categories in a statewide competition; the entry judged Best of Show moves on to represent Massachusetts in the national JDS competition. Click onto the MassWildlife web site for an information packet and entry information. ****
The MA Junior Conservation Camp, this year located at the Moses Scout Reservation in Russell, MA, provides a unique experience of conservation, shooting sports, and outdoor recreation education. The camp’s program introduces young people to the ethical responsibilities of hunting and fishing in order to foster careful stewardship of our natural resources. Boys and girls aged 13 to 17 who enjoy outdoor activities and want to learn more about the environment are eligible to attend. The camp dates are August 2 through August 14. The cost is $750 each. Click onto http://www.juniorconservationcamp.org/ for more information.
The Berkshire County League of Sportsmen has bought two memberships, (one for a boy and one for a girl), and will make them available for free, first come first served, to deserving youths. If you know any interested youths, have them write a letter to BCLS President Mark Jester, 25 Delancy Avenue, Pittsfield MA 01201explaining why they want to attend.