Black bear are becoming a real nuisance



The owner of a Southern Berkshire camp (wishes to remain anonymous) was being bothered by a large bear this past summer.  It had broken into a camper but couldn’t get into the refrigerator because it was locked with a padlock.  On July 30, around 10 PM it tried to break into a tent and the owner shot it four times with a .357 Magnum pistol. (powerful, large caliber pistol) with no effect and the bear walked off. He called the Environmental Police Officers (EPO).


The next morning the EPOs tracked the wounded animal into the woods and put it down.  DFW personnel estimated the bear’s live weight at 515 lbs with the head alone weighing 35 lbs.  The skull has been prepared and is on display at the DFW Headquarters in Dalton.  It dwarfs the other bear’s skull which is exhibited with it.


This and other incidents have caught the attention of the Mass Fish & Wildlife Board.   In its October 1 Meeting in Dalton, DFW Western District Manager Andrew Madden reported that there were nuisance bear calls in the Western District “virtually every day in July.” Likewise, EPO Major Wilton Gray reported to the Board that nuisance bear calls continue to be a problem and a strain on EPO resources.  They are working with the DFW to come up with a program to educate citizens, local community leaders and public safety personnel on how to respond and co-exist with the expanding bear population.  “They are here to stay”, he said “and we have to figure out the best way to handle them”.


The Board is pondering what tools are available to address the problem.  The best tools are bear hunters.  (This past September, a record 202 bears were harvested and more are expected to be taken during the November bear season.)    The Board is considering options such as allowing bear hunting during the shotgun deer season.  Some feel that most bear are denned up by then and there may be little effect on the populations.  Another option the Board may consider is allowing hunters to harvest more than one bear a season.


Madden pointed out that the vast majority of nuisance bear calls are coming from towns with camps and restaurants with dumpsters or from people who leave their bird feeders out when they are not necessary.  Usually they do not allow hunting on their properties. Although he has received many nuisance calls from Stockbridge; only two bears were harvested there during the recent bear hunting season.  This contrasts with the town of Ashfield, which had little or no nuisance calls but yielded 10 bears during the hunt.  He feels that huntable land makes a difference.


“There is a cost of doing business in the Berkshires”, Madden said, “and one cost is to obtain bear-proof trash containers or find other solutions for managing trash”. “We must remove their “attractants”.


Relocating this many bears is not viable for a couple of reasons.  First, it causes a strain on resources to find, drug and relocate the bears.  DFW and EPO staffs have others things to do during the summer months such as maintaining and patrolling the wildlife management areas, stocking fish, etc.  Secondly, bears can have a range of more than 50 miles and may find their way back to where they were assured of tasty birdfeed and garbage meals.   Madden thought that perhaps young bears can be “reconditioned.” It is easier for young bears to be retrained to stay away from houses and developed areas than older bears.  This is done through removal of the reward accompanied by aversive conditioning.


So why are they becoming such a nuisance now?  F&W Board Chairman George “Gige” Darey (and many sportsmen) believe that the problem stems back to Question 1 in the 1990’s, when voters banned bear hunting with dogs as well as using bait.  This uptick in nuisance bears comes as no surprise to them, and their numbers are likely to spread eastward.


Is this a minor nuisance we can live with?  Tell that to some New Jersey Rutgers University hikers. Recently, five hikers encountered a black bear in the woods that began to follow them.   They became frightened and attempted to flee the area.  During the confusion, the group became separated and as they ran in different directions, one hiker was attacked and killed by the bear.  The bear was subsequently euthanized at the scene. Perhaps this could have been avoided if the group had stuck together and made noises. *****


Instead of traveling to the Arctic to fish, maybe I should have stayed home and followed 9-year old Jayder Raifstanger to the Green River in Alford where he landed the above 22 inch, 3.8 lbs brown trout in September.  Son of Jay and Rebecca Raifstanger of Alford, he caught it on a 4 lb test ultra light fishing outfit. *****


The wild turkey fall hunting season opens tomorrow and runs through November 1 (note the increased number of hunting days this year).    Archery hunting season for deer also opens tomorrow and runs through November 29.  Check the 2014 DFW Guide to Hunting, Fishing and Trapping for governing regulations.

One hundred eleven acres conserved by the Toole Family


Well, after 4 articles dealing with our fishing trip up north to Quebec, it’s time to get back home to our local woods and waters.  So anything interesting happen?  You bet!

Last weekend, there was a dedication and  ribbon cutting ceremony of the LFX ”Brian” Toole Wildlife Preserve at the Hampton Inns on Mollie Way in Lenox. Joseph Toole granted a conservation restriction (C/R) of the nearby 111 acres which provides for public access and preservation in perpetuity.  It is one of the few remaining vestiges in Lenox where rare and endangered species exist.  It is bordered by Mass Audubon lands.

The C/R was granted in honor of Joe’s brother, Brian who passed away in 1996.   Born in Lee, Brian was the fourth of nine children.  He dedicated his life to land conservation and beautification.   He worked for the National Park Service in South Dakota and Florida and was an accomplished arborist.

There is everything on this land – ponds, swamps, hills and mountains.  It is an important water recharge area as well as a recharge area for ones spirit and soul.  While there, one is at peace with Mother Nature who nurtures all kinds of plants and wildlife,  from the delicate damsel flies to the largest mammals in North America, such as moose, bears and deer.

This land will be protected in perpetuity with oversight from the Lenox Land Trust (LLT) as grantee of the C/R.  It is a wonderful gift for the residents of Lenox and its visitors.  This was one of the last projects that the late LLT Board Member Attorney, Sarah “Sally” Bell worked on.  Joe Toole was kind enough to lead a hike there for Sally and several Lenox Land Trust and Conservation Commission members several years ago.

Although preserved for passive recreation, Joe left no doubt in the C/R as to what activities are/aren’t allowed on the property.   For example, legal hunting is allowed, motorized vehicles are not.

Brian’s and Joe’s 98 year old mother, Mrs. Marie K. Toole, did the ribbon cutting.

What a wonderful feeling for the Toole family to know that this land will be kept in its natural state in perpetuity.  What a wonderful way to remember and honor Brian.  *****

Preliminary reports reveal a record 202 black bears were harvested by licensed hunters in Massachusetts during the September bear season.  The tally includes 186 bears that were reported online, 6 bears checked in at check stations in the Western district, and 10 checked in at Connecticut Valley district check stations. The previous bear harvest record was set in 2012 with 185 bears reported for both the September and November seasons.  So far this year, about 145 of the 202 bears were harvested in the Western District.

The largest bruin was taken in Becket by Stephen Bonneville of Becket.  It weighed 414 lbs field dressed.  DFW personnel estimate that the bear’s live weight to have been around 500 lbs.

Rifles, muzzleloaders, archery equipment, and revolvers were permitted during the September season. Bear hunters are reminded that revolvers are prohibited during the November season which runs from November 3 through November 22. Successful hunters can report their harvest online using the MassFishHunt system or take their bear to a check station.  There will be more to come on bears in next week’s column. *****

A lot of different hunting seasons are opening his week:  Duck and goose hunting seasons open in the Berkshires tomorrow and run through November 29.  Duck season reopens on December 8 and runs through December 27.  Goose hunting season reopens on December 8 and runs through December 16.


Pheasant, quail, and ruffed grouse hunting opens next Saturday and runs through November 29.  Cottontail and snowshoe hare season open next Saturday and run through February 28 in our district.  Coyote hunting also opens next Saturday and runs through March 7.


Some hunting seasons already in process such as raccoon and opossum hunting which opened on October 1 and run through January 31.  The squirrel hunting season opened on September 8 and runs through January 2.  Woodcock hunting season opened on October 8 and runs through October 25.  It reopens again on October 27 and runs through November 22.


None of the above species can be hunted on Sundays or during the shotgun deer hunting season.

Please refer to the 2014 DFW Guide to Hunting, Fishing and Trapping.


In the last Berkshire Natural Resources News and Events Report, they mention that BNRC allows hunting on all of its properties.  They suggest that everyone wear blaze orange when hiking the trails or wandering the woods.  The DFW requires hunters to wear blaze orange while hunting its wildlife management areas.  Although not required of hikers and birdwatchers, they too would be wise to wear some amount of blaze orange.   *****


Fall is a wonderful time to paddle a canoe or kayak around our beautiful lakes.  MassWildlife reminds us that we are required to wear life jackets (not sit on them) from September 15 to May 15.  They recommend that all water enthusiasts, including anglers who wade in larger rivers, also  wear floatation devices especially now that water and air temperatures are cool.

Fishing trip turns into un-bear-able event



Following up on my recent articles about our fishing trip north to Quebec to fish in Lake Ternay,  Attorney Mike Shepard and I flew out on Tuesday, September 2 and the other guys: Mike and son Darren Miller, Carl Racie and Gary Hebert stayed to fish through Sunday, September 7.


Gary and Mike tell what happened next:


Gary said the remainder of the trip continued to be the “trip from Hell”. “Bad weather made for some nasty white knuckle boat rides.  Not afraid to say this old Navy vet was a bit nervous in some of those three foot swells wearing a half ton of fishing clothes.  My life jackets (plural) never left my hand.  We did manage some decent sized brookies up at the North Rapids one day.


We had a fly-out on Friday to a remote lake but it came with a huge price.   The day started off beautiful and we flew two at a time to remote lake where we took two canoes to some rapids.   In the afternoon we ventured to the other end of the lake and fished those rapids.  Mike landed an 8+ pound brookie, but that’s where the fun ended.


Weather was starting to look iffy, and we headed back to the boat.  That’s when Mike fell down and got soaked.   We make it back to the plane and the weather started to really turn bad.  Carl and I were first on the return trip but we had to abort it because of a wind change and an overweight alarm. We took the boat motor off the plane to get the weight down.


After a tree-top second take-off and subsequent landing on very rough water on Lake Ternay, we made it back to the lodge.  That’s when Joe (outfitter) said we would have to leave Mike and Darren in the Bush.  The weather turned absolutely nasty.  Heavy rain and forty mph wind kept the plane grounded.  Did I mention Mike and Darren had zero emergency gear?   And Mike was soaked with the potential for hypothermia.


None of us slept a wink that night and we never fished again.   To add insult to injury when I asked Joe about any contingency plan if something happened in the Bush, he had none.  Nobody would have had a clue where to even start looking for us.  Very interesting trip and we even paid for it.”


Mike Miller said:  “When we realize that the plane wasn’t coming back we started to make shelter.  We had fly rods, flies, wading sticks and Darren’s pocket knife.  We found a “porta-boat”, assembled it and stuck it upside down between 2 trees.  We broke off spruce branches and piled them between us and the wind to give us a little relief.  The night was extremely long but we got through it okay.   Our biggest concern was for bears coming into the shelter.  I changed into 2 lightweight shirts I carry in a dry bag for situations like this and we ran around the beach every hour to keep warm.  The waders and rain jackets really helped to keep us warm.


A bear showed up around 6 AM working the shore eating blueberries.  When he was about 75 yards away we yelled to get his attention and he just laid down on a rock for about 5 minutes then got up and started coming in our direction.  He did this 2 or 3 times until he was around 20 yards from us at the edge of the beach.  We puffed ourselves up to look big and charged him but he didn’t move.   Again he started in our direction and we charged and threw rocks at him.  He finally stopped, turned around and walked off.   He had no idea what we were.


The weather was pretty good when light broke (4:30AM) so we were confident that the plane would be coming shortly.  Around 9AM the plane hadn’t shown up even though our weather was still clear and we became concerned that something had happened.   At 11AM we decided there was a good chance the plane went down or was damaged so we put together a 5-day survival plan (we knew there was a 3 day front coming through with cold weather and snow from the forecast received the day before).  We fortified our shelter with logs and branches and caught some trout for lunch which we ate raw.  We positioned a canoe half way in the water to allow us escape if a bear showed up.  The smell of fish would probably draw one into our area.


We made the best shelter we could and decided we needed to get some sleep.  Our outlook at this point was bleak.  There were no other options except for being picked up by the float plane.  We left messages on our cell phones for our wives and kids in case we didn’t make it.


About 2PM we heard a plane and then it went away.  It later came back and flew over us and we saw that it was Joe’s plane.


Interestingly, the weather at Ternay was blowing and raining all morning but the weather 15 miles away was clear.  We even had the sun out at one point.  Prime example of what can happen with the fickle weather up there.


Joe did the right thing by leaving us.  There wasn’t any way he could have made another flight that day because he would have crashed the plane trying.  Afterwards he told us this is the first time in 38 years he had ever left anybody in the bush.”


What a story Mike and Darren Miller have to tell their children and grandchildren.  I’ll bet it will be part of their family lore for generations to come.


Unwelcomed guest arrives at fishing camp



Following up on my recent articles about 5 of us fishermen heading north to Quebec to fish in Lake Ternay:  Attorney Mike Shepard (Mike S) and me from the Berkshires, Mike Miller and Carl Racie from Athol, MA and Gary Hebert from Richmond, NH (guys from the east).


One evening, shortly after dinner, our guide Steve came storming into the lodge shouting “There’s a bear out there!”  He grabbed outfitter Joe Stefanski’s 30:06 scoped rifle and ran back outside.  Some of us didn’t take him too seriously for, as mentioned in a previous column, he had a drinking problem and could have been hallucinating.  Things livened up at the table shortly thereafter when we heard a gunshot from outside.  Several rushed outside to see if there really was a bear and if Steve shot it.  Apparently, he missed.


We had just returned to the dinner table when there was another shot and once again fellows scurried out to see what was what.  He missed again.  This scene repeated itself one more time.   There was no way I was going out with a guy running around in the dark shooting a gun.  The bear got away again.


We were beginning to suspect that there was no bear at all when Claude, the handyman, came back in saying he shined a flashlight on the bear but no one was with him to shoot it.  Later on, Steve came in holding a hip boot that was all chewed up.  (Bears apparently like to chew on boots and waders.)


Mike S and I headed back to our cabin because he had left his waders on a clothes line to dry and he wanted to get them inside.  As long as we were there, we called it a night and went to bed. I slept with one eye open that night.  Our cabin was not that secure, with parts of the door rotted out and a very poor latch.  The wind actually blew it open a couple of times earlier during the week.


Around 5 AM, I heard a scratching sound on the outside wall near my feet and thought the guys in the next cabin were clowning around, trying to scare us.  It wasn’t until I heard a piece of plywood being torn off the outside wall that I bounded up to look out the window.   I saw nothing there, listened next to our door and heard nothing and looked out another window.  There I saw a black bear walking down the boardwalk heading away from our cabin and toward the lodge.   I woke Mike S up and told him about it and we both peered out the window but we couldn’t see it any more.  Mike went back to bed and as I was getting dressed we heard 3 gunshots come from the area near the lodge.


Gary Hebert and I walked toward the big house and saw Joe standing there in his underwear holding his rifle.  The first words out of his mouth were “What’s a guy have to do around here to get a night’s sleep?”   The animal had awakened him while rummaging nearby and he shot it.


Shortly thereafter, Claude joined us from the guide’s cottage and showed us the damages the bear did there.  During the night, it scratched at their door trying to get it.  It destroyed Steve’s backpack, scattered his fishing lures, chewed up a beer can, chewed up his sun glasses and punctured an aerosol can of OFF insect repellant (that’s possibly when it chewed up the camp water hose, probably to gargle). Sometime during the night, it also chewed up a couple of jerry cans near the boats.  It tore off a chunk of plywood from our cottage and left it lying on the ground.


After bears had previously broken into one of Joe’s camps and totally destroyed his lodge kitchen, stove, refrigerator, etc, costing him thousands of dollars in damages, he doesn’t fool around with them anymore.  From that day on, no fishing cleaning is allowed on the island or anything that will attract bears.  He flies out the garbage when he goes for provisions.


Unlike the bears around here with frequent contact with humans, bears up there are hundreds of miles away from civilization.  They never see humans and probably consider us another animal to kill and eat.  I hated to see the bear being killed, but if not that day, then sometime in the future it would have caused someone serious trouble.


Joe had to get the dead bear off the island lest the carcass attract other bears.   It was rolled down the hill to the water’s edge, attached by rope to a boat and towed out to a nearby small island which he calls Bear Island.    He left it there where it will eventually be eaten by other bears or scavengers.


Later on, we kiddingly asked Joe what the proper attire was for bear hunting up there.  “Fruit of the Loom”, he replied.


In some ways, Mike S and I were glad to leave because of the slow fishing, drunken guide, dangerous, slippery rivers, white knuckled boat rides through white caps, and marauding bears.  On the other hand, the sights of the Northern Lights were remarkable as were the sights and sounds of the loons and, of course the occasional catching of big beautiful brookies.


As our plane approached, Mike Miller confided in us that he wished he was leaving, too.   But he had to stay because his son Darren was flying in on that plane to fish with him and the other guys for the next several days.  Did he have a premonition?  Find out next week.

Trip to the North turns south



Readers may recall last week’s article about 5 of us fishermen heading north to Quebec to fish in Lake Ternay:  Attorney Mike Shepard (Mike S) and me from the Berkshires, Mike Miller and Carl Racie from Athol, MA and Gary Hebert from Richmond, NH (guys from the east).


When our plane landed on Lake Ternay and we got to the island, there were other people leaving who had spent the prior week fishing.  They said they caught some fish but the fishing was slow at times.   The weather had been very hot, the water warm and the fish were not moving into the rivers.


After unpacking our gear and grabbing a quick lunch, we got into a couple of 16 foot boats and crossed the lake a mile or so to fish the South Rapids (inlet to the lake) where we caught a few small brookies.  It was then that we noticed that we had only one guide for the five of us and he was a last minute fill in.  The scheduled guide hurt his hand and could not be there.


The guide was a Frenchman from New Brunswick who we shall call Steve, and he was accompanied by another Frenchman also from New Brunswick named Claud.  Claud was a likable person whose job was to keep the equipment running and do other camp maintenance.


That night, the outfitter Joe Stefanski asked us not to give any alcohol to Steve because he had a drinking problem.    He also mentioned that Steve had spent two years in prison in Kuujjuaq village in Nunavik, Quebec.   We noticed he always carried a sheathed knife on his belt.  He was an excellent fly tyer though and was familiar with the waters.


The next day, we returned to the South Rapids, hiked over a peninsula where a boat was stashed, crossed that lake to another inlet and hiked overland to the river.  Mike S. caught a nice brookie of nearly 4 lbs where the river entered the lake.   I moved upriver and had just stepped into the water with the intent of fishing downstream toward Mike when Steve entered just below me and started catching fish after fish.  Being the guide, I fully expected him to invite me down there to fish it, but he didn’t.  It was like he was competing with me.


When he finally moved upstream, I went there and began catching nice trout myself.  We never saw Steve or Claud the rest of the day.  In the meantime, Stefanski brought the guys from the east to the other side of the river and they caught a few nice fish.


At the end of the day, the Frenchmen returned to the boat and on the way back we heard all about the big fish that they caught up above.  This did not set well with us who were supposed to be guided that day.


A day or so later, we noticed Steve helping himself to the guy’s beer and before long, an 8 pack of beer was missing.  His problem with alcohol was becoming evident.  Mike S and I took our stuff to our cabin.  After all, we weren’t in a place where we could go to the corner package store and buy more.


The next day, we fished the North Rapids (lake outlet) some 12 miles away (2 hour boat ride in very choppy waters). Care had to be taken at certain spots lest the motor propeller struck large submerged rocks.  Depending on what side of the river you fished or if you wanted to brave the strong current and slippery rocks in the middle, some large brookies could be caught.  We never saw a landlocked salmon that day nor had the shore lunch that we were promised.


On our next trips to the North Rapids fishing got a little better.  Steve typically took the guys from the east in his boat and Mike S. drove ours.  One day Steve spent an hour or so helping me and Mike S.  get out into the middle of the river and catch some beautiful fish.  He took the guys from the east to the opposite side of the river and they caught some nice fish, too. On the way back, we did some trolling in a shallow inlet and caught 7 nice pike of 36” or more for our dinner that night.


But for the next several days, Steve only drove the boat and dropped us off to fish while he disappeared on shoreline or sat in the boat drinking.  There was virtually no guiding being done, or shore lunches, and it appeared as though he was drinking more and more.


When the beer ran out, he started hitting the hard stuff that other customers from previous trips had left when they went home.  He used so much of our orange juice for mixer that we had none left for breakfast the last day.


A trip like this is not just about catching fish.  Part of the enjoyment is when the dinner is over and the fishermen sit around the fireplace, have a drink and discuss the big fish that they didn’t catch.  We couldn’t do this because of Steve and we were uncomfortable and had to watch every word we said to him.  Usually, we retired to our cold cabins earlier that we wanted.  We were disappointed.


Don’t get me wrong.  We caught some big brook trout.  Mike S. and I caught a couple in the 4 lb range and the guys from the east landed some even bigger in the 5-6 lb range.  However, we should have caught more.  If we had a sober guide who took his work seriously, the outcome of our trip may have been different.  To be continued next week.


Off again on another fly fishing trip


For over 6 months Attorney Michael Shepard of Dalton and I have been planning a fly fishing trip to Lake Ternay in Northern Quebec.  We had arranged the trip through outfitter Joe Stefanski of High Arctic Adventures. Several years ago, we used the outfitter to fish Diana Lake in the Nunavik region in Canada.  We had a wonderful trip then catching lots of large brook trout and we hoped the same would happen at Ternay.

The day finally arrived and we drove up to Montreal, stayed at the Sheraton Hotel that night and linked up with three other fishermen :  Mike Miller and Carl Racie from Athol, MA and Gary Hebert from Richmond, NH.   The next morning we flew to Sept-Iles in Quebec and then on to Wabash, Labrador.  From there we took a 5 minute ride to Labrador City where we purchased our provisions and spent the second night.  The following morning, bush pilots flew us in two  seaplanes, from Little Wabash Lake to Lake Ternay where our camp, Lake Ternay Lodge was located on an island.  Our plane was a four seat de Havilland Beaver which was built in 1956 and it appeared that the only modern equipment on it was a GPS system, similar to what you have in your car.

Mike Shepard sat in a front seat next to the 22 year old pilot and I sat in the back next to a strapped in 55 gallon drum of aviation fuel.  After an hour flight, we made a smooth landing on the lake.  (I get such a rush taking off or landing on water).  The lake is located approximately 100 miles northwest of Wabash in Quebec Province with nothing, I mean nothing but tundra and water bodies in between.   There were no other people or towns for nearly 100 miles.

The lake is in the headwaters of the Caniapiscau River in the sub arctic region and a river flows in from the south (South Rapids) and the outlet flows north (North Rapids).  All rivers there above the 52nd parallel flow north ultimately into Ungava Bay, some 350 miles north.

According to Stefanski, the brook trout, lake trout, landlock salmon, pike, etc. stay in the deep lake during the winter and as soon as “ice out” the baitfish swim upstream to spawn and the game fish follow and feed on them.   During the warm summer months, they drop back into the lake and stay there until it is time for them to spawn, in late August or early September, depending on weather and water conditions.  That is what brought us to this remote spot at that time.  We wanted to fish the rivers for big brookies, landlocks, and perhaps lakers. Aah!  The things we do and places we go to outfox a critter with a brain the size of a pea.

After two days of traveling, we finally made it there and were ready for a wonderful week of catching some big fish.  To be continued in next week’s column.  *****

At the September Berkshire County League of Sportsmen meeting, Andrew Madden, Manager of DFW Western District reported the following:

Hunting on Sundays is still prohibited in Massachusetts.  A bill allowing bowhunting on Sundays had been passed by the House in June, but it did not get passed by the full legislature.

The DFW Field Headquarters staff is back in operation in Westborough. The new state-of-the-art, energy-neutral Headquarters building, is located on the footprint of the old building on the Westborough Wildlife Management Area.  Phone numbers, email addresses for Field Headquarters staff, and location remain the same (1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581).

The sale of Surplus Antlerless Deer Permits by Wildlife Management Zone will be staggered over the following days in October:

  • Zone 11 permits will go on sale Tuesday, October 7th at 8 A.M.
  • Zone 10 permits will go on sale Wednesday, October 8th at 8 A.M.
  • Zone 13 and 14 permits will go on sale Thursday, October 9th at 8 A.M.


Three Western District sportsmen’s clubs are participating in the Youth Pheasant Hunt this fall (East Mountain, Lee, and Worthington).  For more information contact the DFW Western District office in Dalton (413) 684-1646.

Total new acreage (Ownership and Conservation Easements) in the Western District totaled 958 acres this past year:  Blandford – 150 acres, Chester  – 76 acres, Chesterfield – 91 acres, Cummington – 2 acres, Great Barrington – 325 acres, Lanesboro – 139 acres, Windsor – 75 acres and Worthington – 100 acres

Fall trout stocking should begin the last week of September and run through the Columbus Day weekend.  The Western District waters usually stocked in the fall include: Ashfield Pond, Deerfield River, Littleville Lake, Westfield River (E. Branch), North Pond, Upper Highland Lake, Littleville Lake, Norwich Lake, Goose Pond, Laurel Lake, Lake  Buel, Windsor Lake, Lake Buel, Otis Reservoir, Big Benton Pond, Onota Lake, Pontoosuc Lake, Richmond Pond, Stockbridge Bowl and Windsor Pond.

The September meeting of the Fisheries and Wildlife Board will be held this Tuesday at noon at the DFW Western Wildlife District office, 88 Old Windsor Road, Dalton. *****

The Berkshire County Chapter of Whitetails Unlimited will be having a banquet on Saturday evening, September 20 at the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club, Route 102, Stockbridge.  There will be games, raffles and a social hour at 5 PM and a buffet dinner at 6:30 PM.  Tickets cost $45 for a single, $35 for spouse, $25 for junior.  There are sponsor deals also.  The ticket order deadline is tomorrow. We attended the first event last year and had a wonderful time.

The Cheshire Rod & Gun Club Turkey Shoots start next Sunday and run every Sunday through November 23.  Shoots start at 1 p.m. and costs $3 a shot.

MassWildlife: Brake for moose!


Because fall is the breeding season for both moose and white-tailed deer, the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) reminds motorists to be mindful of increased deer and moose activity, especially during early morning and evening hours. September and October is the breeding season for Massachusetts’ moose population found primarily in the central and western areas.  The breeding season (also known as “the rut”) for white-tailed deer closely follows the moose breeding season from late October through early December.


Male deer and moose experience “tunnel-vision” during the mating season created by the urge to reproduce. They will often chase females across roads, unaware of motor vehicles. Additionally, because moose have no natural predators in Massachusetts and are protected by law from hunting, these large (500-1,000 lbs) members of the deer family are unconcerned as they move through populated areas. The dark color and height of moose make them difficult to see at night (moose eyes rarely shine like deer eyes because they are above headlight levels).  Long legs and top heavy bodies make moose very dangerous to motorists when struck.

Be aware and heed “Moose and Deer Crossing” signs erected by highway departments and slow down.   Moose are less likely to move from the road than deer; so braking and driving defensively for moose is our best policy.  Police and other departments responding to moose or deer/car collisions are reminded that while drivers or passengers are allowed by law to keep white-tailed deer they have hit with their vehicle (salvaged deer must be officially reported), only the DFW or the Environmental Police can make decisions regarding the disposition of moose. All moose or deer/vehicle collisions should be reported to the Environmental Police (800) 632-8075 and to DFW Wildlife District offices.

The bulls stay with the cows only long enough to breed then leave in pursuit of other cows. Both bulls and cows travel more during this time in pursuit of a mate.  Females can breed as early as 1 ½ years of age.

Moose, like deer, lack a set of upper incisors; they strip off browse and bark rather than snipping it neatly.  During summer, moose prefer to feed in or near clearings and other open areas where they browse on tender leaves, twigs and tree bark as well as aquatic and semi-aquatic vegetation. Grasses, lichens, mosses, mushrooms and other herbaceous plants are also a part of their diet. Winter food mostly consists of needle bearing trees and hardwood bark, buds and twigs.

Only bulls grow antlers. These antlers begin growing in March to early April, completing by August when the velvet is shed. Antlers start dropping in December, though some young bulls retain their antlers until late winter. The bell, the flap of skin and long hair that hangs from the throat, is more pronounced in adult bulls than in cows or immature bulls.

According to DFW, moose have been absent from our state from the early 1700’s.   As recently as the 1970’s a moose sighting was considered a rare sight. So why are they here now?  As early settlers cleared the extensive forests in the state for pastures and farming, moose habitat disappeared along with the moose. This happened through much of New England.  Habitat for moose recovered due in part to farmers moving out to the more fertile Midwest or to factory towns during the Industrial Revolution.

Moose are now reclaiming their former range and moving into areas where they haven’t been seen for hundreds of years.

Moose populations got a boost in northern New England states from a combination of forest cutting practices and lack of moose harvest which created ideal moose habitat and allowed for high reproduction and survival rates. Gradually, as the population increased, moose moved southward into their historic range and by the early 1980’s they moved into northern Worcester and Middlesex Counties and began to breed and disperse through central Massachusetts.

In 2007, MassWildlife biologists estimated 850-950 moose lived in Massachusetts, with the majority of them found in northern Worcester County.  During the year, moose home ranges vary from 5-50 square miles depending on the season.  MassWildlife has been monitoring moose populations through sighting reports, road kills and urban/suburban situations.  A recent study has begun to catch and collar moose to follow them and understand their movements, reproduction and survival rates.

During the breeding season in fall, or the calving season in spring, we are advised to stay a respectful distance away because bulls can be unpredictable and cows can be very protective of their calves.  Keep dogs under control.

Some other interesting facts about moose:  There has been a steep decline in some parts of the US in places such as Minnesota, Montana and New Hampshire.  Some scientists speculate that the underlying cause is climate change (global warming).  Winters have grown substantially shorter across much of the moose’s range.  In NH, a longer fall with less snow has greatly increased the number of winter ticks, a devastating parasite.  “You could get 100,000 ticks on a moose” said Kristine Rines, a biologist with the state’s Fish & Game Dept.

Up in British Columbia, a recent study blamed the decline on the widespread loss of forests caused by the epidemic of pine bark beetles which thrive in warmer weather.  The loss of trees leave the moose exposed to human and animal predators. *****

The Berkshire Hatchery Foundation is having its final kid’s fishing derby of the year on September 13. *****


I just returned from a 12 day fishing trip to upper Quebec, Canada which will be written about in future columns.  If you tried to reach me during that period with announcements that you wished to be mentioned in the column, please don’t think I ignored you.  Your input is important and always welcomed.


Some hunting seasons open this Tuesday.



The black bear hunting season is nearly upon us.  The season is divided into two time periods. The first period begins on Tuesday September 2 and ends on Saturday, September 20, for a total of 17 days.  The second period begins on November 3 and ends on November 22, for a total of 18 days.  The season is open only in wildlife management zones 01 through 09.

Bear hunters can purchase and print their Black Bear permit when they buy their hunting licenses, or can go online later in the year and purchase and print it immediately.  It is no longer necessary to mail in an application, and one does not need to wonder if the applications or permits were lost in the mail.   There is no longer a deadline of any kind for these permits.

The hunting hours begin at ½ hour before sunrise and continue until ½ hour after sunset.  The season bag limit is one black bear per calendar year. A person may kill a bear of any sex or any size.  Hunters are encouraged to check the MA Fish & Wildlife Guide, page 31 for more information on this sport.

The 2014-15 Migratory Game Bird Regulations, including hunting seasons, bag limits, and methods of take, are now available. The early statewide goose hunting season also begins on Tuesday, September 2 and ends on September 25.   Hard copies of the regulations will be available at license vendor locations and MassWildlife offices in September.  The daily bag is 7 and the possession limit is 21.

All migratory game bird hunters are reminded they must complete an online Harvest Information Program (HIP) survey each calendar year. If you have not completed the HIP survey, visit a local license vendor, MassWildlife office, or go to to be sure you have completed the survey. Your license must have either the notation “HIP Survey Completed” or “Waterfowl Stamp” when printed.

Disappointed that you did not win an antlerless deer permit this year?  Well in our neck of the woods, the odds of getting one were not in your favor.   The following lists the Western District Wildlife Management Zones, the number of allocations, number of permits and chances of winning:


Mgmt. Zone

Allocation # Applicants Chance of Winning
1 400 1,229 39%
2 175 1,636 15%
3 1,100 2,325 53%
4N 375 2,145 18%
4S 275 1,619 18%



Guess you and I will just have to bag a buck.*****


This year 31 adult Atlantic Salmon returned to the Connecticut River from the Atlantic Ocean.   This compares with previous years as follows:  89 in 2013, 57 in 2012, 111 in 2011, 51 in 2010 and 75 in 2009.  This year, 1 returned to the Salmon River in Connecticut, 3 to the Farmington River in Connecticut, 2 to the Westfield River and 25 reached the Holyoke Dam.  Of those reaching Holyoke and released upstream, 11 of them reached Gatehouse Dam and were released, 8 reached Vernon and released, two made it to Bellows Falls and released and 1 made it all the way to the Wilder Dam in VT.  That last fish traveled through CT, MA and well into VT/NH, up above White River Junction.


As you may be aware, the Connecticut River Salmon Restoration program has ended.  Both the US Fish & Wildlife Service and wildlife agencies of MA, VT and NH will no longer support it.   The last stocking of salmon fry into our feeder streams in Massachusetts took place in the spring of 2013.  They will remain in our streams for a couple of years until they turn into smolts and make their migration to Long Island Sound and the sea.  After a couple of years, with luck, they will return to their home streams to spawn.  That means the last Connecticut River spawning run into Massachusetts will probably take place in 2017.


Adult sea-run Atlantic salmon are being tagged and released at all fishway/trap facilities.  If a tagged salmon is caught while fishing, you must release it immediately unharmed. You are asked to not remove the fish’s tag and to call 413-548-9138 ext. 121, (indicated on the yellow streamer tag), to provide information on the event.


In Connecticut, they are still maintaining their fry stocking program on their own but at a greatly reduced level.  The problem is that they have no place to retain the wild returning salmon now that the USFWS has closed its facilities and is out of the program.  It will be difficult to get diverse stock from other returning salmon into the CT River, so there will be bio-diversity issues.  They will be shifting their program to handle domestic salmon at their state hatcheries but are not sure as to how to proceed with this program. According to the CT Dept of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) officials, they feel that maintaining the salmon rearing program in their schools is an important educational program.  Amen to that.


Other 2014 returns to the Connecticut River this year include the following:  375,132 American Shad (vs 397,689 last year) 42 adult American Eel, 679 Blueback Herring (vs 995), 403 Gizzard Shad (vs 823), 27,535 Sea Lamprey (vs 24,926), 3 Shortnose Sturgeon (vs 2) and 68 Striped Bass (vs 245 ).  Some 4,789 American Shad (vs 4,900), 1,127 Sea Lamprey (vs 726), 38 American Eel and 4 Blueback Herring returned to the Westfield River.  (No records available of American Eel and Blueback Herring returning to the Westfield in 2013).


The Merrimack River is the other Massachusetts river where Atlantic salmon run.  That restoration program also has been discontinued.  Some 41 Atlantic Salmon returned into that river this year along with 34,711 American Shad, 33,517 River Herring, 128 Striped Bass, 4,023 Sea Lamprey, 2,678 American Eel and 29 Gizzard Shad.

Famous poet once was in North Berkshires



For you fishermen and stream enthusiasts, here is a poem which you may enjoy.   The poem was discovered in the North Adams Library by Paul Ouellette of Lanesboro and read at a Taconic Trout Unlimited Chapter meeting over 25 years ago.    It still is required reading for TU members.   Paul is in his 90’s now, but I’ll bet he can still recite that poem from memory.  You’ll  never guess who wrote it.

There’s a brook on the side of Greylock that used to be full of trout, But there’s nothing there now but minnows; they say it is all fished out. I fished there many a Summer day some twenty years ago, And I never quit without getting a mess of a dozen or so. There was a man, Dave Lilly, who lived on the North Adams road, And he spent all his time fishing, while his neighbors reaped and sowed. He was the luckiest fisherman in the Berkshire hills, I think. And when he didn’t go fishing he’d sit in the tavern and drink. Well, Dave is dead and buried and nobody cares very much; They have no use in Greylock for drunkards and loafers and such. But I always liked Dave Lilly, he was pleasant as you could wish; He was shiftless and good-for-nothing, but he certainly could fish. The other night I was walking up the hill from Williamstown And I came to the brook I mentioned, and I stopped on the bridge and sat down. I looked at the blackened water with its little flecks of white And I heard it ripple and whisper in the still of the Summer night. And after I’d been there a minute it seemed to me I could feel The presence of someone near me, and I heard the hum of a reel. And the water was churned and broken, and something was brought to land By a twist and flirt of a shadowy rod in a deft and shadowy hand. I scrambled down to the brookside and hunted all about; There wasn’t a sign of a fisherman; there wasn’t a sign of a trout. But I heard somebody chuckle behind the hollow oak And I got a whiff of tobacco like Lilly used to smoke. It’s fifteen years, they tell me, since anyone fished that brook; And there’s nothing in it but minnows that nibble the bait off your hook. But before the sun has risen and after the moon has set I know that it’s full of ghostly trout for Lilly’s ghost to get. I guess I’ll go to the tavern and get a bottle of rye And leave it down by the hollow oak, where Lilly’s ghost went by. I meant to go up on the hillside and try to find his grave And put some flowers on it — but this will be better for Dave.

The poem is entitled Dave Lillie and it was written by none other than the famous poet Joyce Kilmer.  Yes, the same guy who wrote the poem “Trees”.  You remember it, “I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree…. “   A lot of us Lenox Dale grade school kids back in the 1940’s and 1950’s had to learn that poem and recite it in class.   I don’t know if kids even learn poetry in school any more.  But I digress.

It is obvious that he (Alfred Joyce Kilmer) lived in or visited the North Berkshires, because he mentioned some local landmarks such as Mt Greylock, North Adams Road and the town of Williamstown in the poem..    According to research conducted by Paul W. Marino (, a Lillie family farmed in what is now the watershed of Mt Williams Reservoir, which he believes is the area to which Kilmer referred.

Marino notes that Kilmer, who was born and raised in New Brunswick, NJ, was no stranger to the Berkshires.  For many years his mother maintained a summer home in Cheshire.

At the age of 31, Kilmer was killed in World War I, during the Second Battle of the Marne on July 30, 1918.  On that day he volunteered to accompany Major William “Wild Bill” Donovan when Donovan’s First Battalion was sent to lead the day’s attack.

According to Wikipedia, most of his poems are largely unknown and several critics including his contemporaries and modern scholars have disparaged Kilmer’s work as being too simple and overly sentimental, and suggested that his style was far too traditional, even archaic.  

Well, some of us simple, archaic old folks do like his poems.

Many thanks to Matt Tannenbaum of the Bookstore in Lenox for helping me research this article .*****

Happy 100th birthday goes to the Berkshire Hatchery, an environmental and operational landmark on the Konkapot River in New Marlborough.   The Hatchery was created when the family of John Sullivan Scully, a trout fisherman, entrusted their 148-acre retreat to the U.S. Government in 1914.   It became a Federal hatchery in 1919.

Scully is to be honored today at the Hatchery’s Lobsterfest.   As Berkshire Hatchery Foundation President George B. Emmonds so eloquently wrote  in his article in the August issue of The Monterey News:  “As the sound of music at the afternoon celebration filters over a picturesque mountain setting, with the year round flow of 300 gallons a minute of perfect 47 degree water, attendees will be asked to join in singing this song of praise to honor the generosity of Scully’s (Irish) ancestral heritage.  Although it was 100 years ago that the founding angler rounded a bend in the river of life, he will be with us in spirit as his legacy lives on.”

Hope you are one of the lucky ones attending today’s Lobsterfest.

. 4376 – An Act relative to the reduction of gun violence – a critical look


Well, the much awaited anti-gun violence bill was finally passed by our legislators and signed by Governor Patrick.

According to Jim Wallace, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Gun Owners Action League (GOAL) two interesting things happened during the deliberations.  First, it became clear that the MA Legislature was going to take a much more deliberate process than our neighboring states did.  Second, there was a “tectonic” shift in terms of what happened when MA legislators began discussing further restrictions of the gun owner’s rights.  GOAL members (15,000 members strong) sent out a loud and clear message and they were heard.

Positive changes according to GOAL:

  • Critical training language correction for juniors allowing trainers to provide firearms to junior shooters and hunters with parental consent.  Juniors are now able to apply for their FID card a year early (age 14) and receive their card at 15, thus allowing them to hunt in their first eligible year.
  • Persons over 18 years old will no longer need an FID card to purchase pepper spray.  15-17 years old can possess but must have an FID card.
  • Police chiefs must first petition the court to deny someone an FID card.  They now have to put denials in writing.  Now, gun owners can appeal their LTC restrictions in District Court which places the burden of proof on the police chief to defend the denial or restriction in District Court and in writing.    The language also includes time limits.  If there is no decision rendered in the prescribed amount of time, the license will be issued.
  • The term “prohibited person” is now being used for both licenses – instead of “unsuitable”.   This change in the language provides a much needed change in framework around who is prohibited.
  • A 90 day license renewal grace period was fixed. Gun owners will now receive a receipt upon renewal, which makes the license valid until the new license is received.
  • Language was added protecting people who voluntarily seek mental health help preventing them from being listed as a “prohibited person”.  This also gives protection to people who voluntarily seek help for drug and alcohol use.
  • There will be exemptions for the sale of Olympic-style handguns.  They were previously not allowed to be sold in the Commonwealth.
  • Curios and relic (C&R) collectors can now purchase handguns and firearms that may not comply with the approved firearms roster.  They can now legally transfer them to licensed C&R dealers.
  • Created online portal for face-to-face transfers preserving private sales.
  • Removed the Class B License to Carry and made all one LTC license
  • Language was added providing protection of property for firearms owners.  Now, if your firearms get confiscated, the licensing authority shall at that time inform you in writing of your ability to transfer them to an independent licensed individual.  (Apparently there were cases where confiscated firearms disappeared and were not returned to the rightful owners, even though they were cleared of charges).
  • Language was added so that a person who, in good faith, reports lost or stolen firearms will have protection, so that the licensing authority cannot make them considered a prohibited person.
  • The time period active duty military members have to become licensed, or renew their license has been extended from 90 to 180 days.  Also, veterans will now be exempted from having to take the mandatory gun safety training classes.

According to Wallace, here is what was stopped in H.4376, thanks in part because of gun owners’ and GOAL’s efforts:

  • The original bill would have criminalized private sales of firearms between licensed individuals.  It was struck and private sales remain legal.
  • It would have applied a “suitability” clause to the issuance of FID cards.  This was modified so that the licensing authority now has to prove in court that the applicant is unsuitable
  • It would have made the FID applicant list a “reason” for applying.
  • It would have given the licensing authority the ability to place restrictions on FID cards.
  • It had onerous language regarding the confiscated/seized firearms.
  • It would have penalized licensees for not renewing early
  • It would have had a restrictive amendment including a one gun a month rule.

According to GOAL, the things that they did not like with the legislation are as follows:

  • MA police chiefs now have more power over license applicants via applying “suitability” to FID cards.
  • Increased penalties for violating storage laws
  • Increased penalties for being in possession of a firearm on school grounds.

GOAL took a neutral position with NICS compliance.  (GOAL worked hard to ensure that the language met Fed standards), “safe and supportive schools” (NRA’s idea of adding armed police to schools) and increased fines for criminal acts involving firearms.

Wallace noted that the scope of the bill is very large and in order to get an accurate assessment one needs to step back and examine it as a whole, what was gained, what was lost and what was stopped.  “We certainly did not receive letters forcing us to register our rifles and turn in our magazines.  We didn’t wind up with laws mirroring Vermont or Montana but rather made strides in the right direction”.

Kudos go to Jim Wallace for lobbying so hard for reasonable legislation.  It is doubtful that he got much sleep during the deliberation period.  Kudos to our local legislators, too, for supporting this reasonable legislation.  And kudos especially to the gun owners who flooded legislator’s e-mails, tied up phone lines, filled up mail boxes and ran fax machines out of paper. You were heard and you made a difference.