Beware of rabid coyotes

 

According to MassWildlife, a coyote attacked 2 people in North Attleboro on November 20, 2017 while police were responding to calls about a coyote acting oddly. The North Attleboro police killed the coyote and sent it to the Department of Public Health (DPH) for rabies testing. Subsequently, DPH test results confirmed the coyote was rabid. MassWildlife is reminding the public to report any unusual animal behavior to local authorities and to take specific actions which reduces contact with coyotes.

In a recent press release, they stated that attacks by coyotes on people are a rare and unusual event. The North Attleboro attacks are the eighth and ninth documented attacks on people by coyotes since the 1950’s. Of the seven prior attacks, two coyotes were confirmed as rabid and three others were suspected as rabid, but the animals could not be captured for testing. The last coyote attack on a person was in the town of Kingston in 2015.

Rabies is a very serious disease affecting the nervous system of mammals, including cats, dogs, raccoons, coyotes, foxes, and people. Rabies is caused by a virus and is almost always fatal. The virus found in saliva is usually spread from animal to animal or to people through bites. People who have been bitten or scratched by a potentially rabid animal should contact their health care provider. In most cases, immediate treatment for rabies exposure is necessary. If a pet has been attacked, owners should contact their veterinarian for advice.

MassWildlife urges the public to report any observations of wild or domestic mammals displaying symptoms of this fatal disease to local animal control officers. There are two kinds of symptoms, the “furious form” and the “dumb form”. Furious form symptoms include aggressive attacks on people or other animals, or random biting of objects. Dumb form symptoms are exhibited by animals acting sick, dazed, or paralyzed.

Rabies in coyotes is relatively uncommon. Since 2014, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) has tested 14 coyotes for rabies. Cumulative reports from the DPH summarizing rabies testing from 1992-2002 and annual reports from 2003 to 2016 are available on the DPH website and can be found at www.mass.gov/dph/rabies.

Coyotes live in rural, suburban, and urban areas throughout Massachusetts except for Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Coyotes thrive where people live because there is a lot of food available–including garbage, fruit trees, bird seed, and suet. Small pets as well as wildlife attracted to birdfeeders are also a potential meal for coyotes. Coyote attacks on pets are not unusual; loose pets are at risk of attack by coyotes or other wildlife. Cats and small dogs are viewed as a potential meal for coyotes, while larger dogs, especially when off-leash, may be viewed by coyotes as a threat.

Interestingly, the subject of a recent rash of fox and raccoon rabies incidents in the Northern Berkshires was discussed during the October Meeting of the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen. Sportsmen were advised to be aware and forewarned.

To prevent contact with coyotes, MassWildlife recommends the following actions:

Remove all types of food: Coyotes eat bird seed, suet, and the small wildlife attracted to feeders. They also raid garbage and compost piles. Secure garbage in plastic containers with tight fitting lids and keep them secure. Take out trash when the morning pick-up is scheduled, not the previous night. Remove bird feeders.

Stay outside with your pet: Pet owners should be present outside with their pets at all times and keep them under control, preferably on a leash. Unsupervised pets left outdoors are at risk of attack by coyotes or other animals. The presence of a human generally discourages coyotes.

For more tips on avoiding problems with coyotes, see MassWildlife’s Living With Coyotes Fact Sheet.

Coyote Derby
Dave’s Sporting Goods in Pittsfield is having its Coyote Derby again this year. It will run until the end of coyote hunting season which is March 8, 2018. Entrance fee is $10 and prizes will be awarded to the person who bags the most coyotes, the largest coyote and there will also be a random draw.
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. 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 a 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.
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.
So far, no CWD infected deer have been found in Massachusetts. Let’s try to keep it that way.
IDPA
The International Defensive Pistol Association will be holding a 2-Gun match on Sunday, December 10, weather permitting, at the Lee Sportsmen’s Association. It starts at 12:00 pm and ends at 4:30 pm. Shotgun and/or pistol, 3 stages, 30 #7 shot shell 150 pistol. Contact ssullee@icloud.com for more information. Also, all scheduled event information is listed at www.leesportsmen.com.
TU Holiday Party

The Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited is having its annual Holiday Party on Thursday, December 14 at the Crissey Farm @ Barrington Brewery, 420 Stockbridge Rd, Great Barrington. For the first time in chapter history, it’s Holiday party will be opened to the general public. It will be a buffet dinner which costs $30 pp. Social Hour with hors d’oeuvres at 5:30 PM. The event features a Door Prize and Donation Bucket Raffle. For more information call Bill Travis at (413)-447-9720 or email: traviswdt547@gmail.com. Reservations must be made by December 9.

2016 shotgun deer hunting season off to a good start

 

 

As of noon last Wednesday, 82 deer were checked in at the DFW Western District Headquarters in Dalton, MA. Some 52 were checked in on opening day.  That figure is significantly higher than last year’s figure at the same time.  Some of those deer were bruisers with beautiful antlers and good body weights..  For example, Peter Derby shot a 6 point buck in Hinsdale that weighed in at 202 lbs.  Thomas Wiencek shot a 9 point buck in Cheshire that weighed 198 lbs.  These were field dressed weights.  To estimate their actual live weights, multiply the field dressed weight by 1.26.  So the estimated live weight of Derby’s deer was approximately 255 lbs and Wiencik’s deer weighed approximately 249 lbs.  Nice deer, ey?

 

The season was only two and a half days old and preliminary harvest numbers were not available from the outlying check stations.  We do know that the Mill River check station weighed three huge deer; a 10 pointer weighing 181 lbs, an 8 pointer weighed in at 186 lbs and another 10 pointer which weighed 157 lbs.   There was an 8 pointer shot in Richmond that weighed 176 lbs, an 8 pointer that weighed 179 lbs and a 10 pointer weighing 184 lbs shot in Lee.  There was an 11 pointer that weighed in at 164 lbs in Monterey and a 12 pointer taken off of Mt Greylock that weighed 174 lbs.  These large deer were in addition to the “normal” sized deer.
DFW Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden said that his office and the outlying check stations all exceeded last year’s harvest numbers for opening day.  He attributed the high harvest numbers to the almost ideal conditions:  ample snow for tracking and pleasant temperatures.  On Tuesday and Wednesday, when I was at the office, the conditions were less than ideal with pretty good downpours.  Even so, the hunters were not deterred.  Around noon time on Tuesday there was a steady stream of hunters checking in their deer.   That kept Madden and Wildlife Technician Derek McDermott out in the rain most of the day checking them in.

 

Effective last year, a third black bear hunting season was started which runs through the 2 week shotgun deer hunting season.  As of noon on Wednesday, 4 bear were checked in at the Western District Check Stations.  According to Madden, this indicates that all of the bears have not yet denned up for the winter in spite of the large snowfall which occurred the previous week.  He did say; however, that hunters can still tag bears online during this season, so he doesn’t yet know  what the tally is.

 

With the hard rainfall and fog on Tuesday and Wednesday, much of the snow melted and tracking might have been more difficult.  But there was plenty of mud and soft ground so it was still possible to track the deer.

 

The shotgun deer hunting season runs until next Saturday, December 10.  If you haven’t been able to get out yet, don’t worry.  There appears to be a lot more deer out there this year, possibly due to the mild winter we had last year.   This year’s shotgun harvest numbers should be relatively high.  After that season, the primitive firearms (black powder) deer hunting season opens on Monday, December 12 and runs through Saturday, December 31.

 

 

 

Coyote Derby

Dave’s Sporting Goods in Pittsfield is having its Coyote Derby again this year.  It will run until the end of coyote hunting season which is March 8, 2017.  Entrance fee is $10 and prizes will be awarded to the person who bags the most coyotes, the largest coyote and there will also be a random draw.

 

Licenses on sale

The 2017 hunting, sporting, freshwater fishing, and trapping licenses are available for purchase through MassFishHunt, at a license vendor location, or at a DFW office.   Good news!  There are no increases in the license fees this year.    In fact, there has not been a license fee increase since 1996.

 

At that time, Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife Board Chairman George “Gige” Darey of Lenox, and the then DFW Director Wayne MacCallum calculated that with the $10 fee increase they imposed, they wouldn’t have to request another increase until the year 2006.  It has now been twenty years.

 

How is that possible, you ask?  Darey attributes it to several factors:  good grant writing, division downsizing, modernization and priority.  Darey said that during the downsizing, no one lost their jobs.  One examples of modernization is that more and more pheasants are being bought, rather than raising then.  This allows for excellent birds at  lower prices because they are saving money on manpower costs.  The Division is also utilizing more economical ways of raising the fish, too.

 

2016 Guides are available

You can now download your 2017 Massachusetts Guide to Hunting, Freshwater Fishing and Trapping Laws (formerly called the abstracts) or pick one up at a licensed vender or at a DFW office.  This year’s cover has a nice picture of a coyote.

 

Listed in the 2017 Guide are the following changes:  1) Migratory game bird seasons and bag limits are now set in the Spring;  2) Federal Migratory Game Bird Stamps may be purchased online through MassFishHunt (mass.gov/massfishhunt) when purchasing your hunting license and state waterfowl stamp and 3)There are new Learn-to-Hunt and Explore archery and bowhunting programs that provide unique opportunities for new hunters and archers to gain important knowledge and skills.

 

In the 2017 Guide, DFW Director Jack Buckley highlighted some of the Division’s accomplishments during 2016.  I plan to list them in next week’s column.

Small game hunting season is upon us

 

 

The woodcock hunting season opened last Wednesday and runs through October 29.  It reopens on October 31 and runs through November 19.  Because the woodcock is classified as a migratory game bird but not a waterfowl, lead shot may be used.  However, a Harvest Information Program (HIP) registration is required to hunt them as well as ducks, geese and other waterfowl.

 

Tomorrow morning marks the opening of duck and Canada goose hunting season in the Berkshire Zone and runs through November 26.  Duck hunting season reopens on December 5 and runs through December 24.  Goose season reopens on December 5 and runs through December 13.  (Although referred to as the Berkshire Zone, its eastern boundary is I-91, Rte 10 and Rte 202.)  Check the regulations regarding daily harvests for the various ducks, geese and woodcock.

 

The pheasant and ruffed grouse hunting seasons open next Saturday and runs through November 26.  The daily limit for pheasants is 2, and for grouse it is 3.   If hunting a Wildlife Management Area for pheasants or grouse and other small game, you must wear a hunter orange cap.  The exceptions are if you are hunting waterfowl from within a blind or boat or if you are hunting raccoons or opossums at night.

 

Cottontail rabbit hunting season opens next Saturday in Zones 1 – 12 and runs through February 28, 2017.  Snowshoe hare season opens next Saturday and runs through February 28 in Zones 1-4.  The other zones have differing seasons.  The daily limit is 5 cottontails and 2 hares.

 

The gray squirrel season, which opened on September 12 in our zone is ongoing and ends on January 2, 2017.  The daily limit is 5.  Rabbit, hare and squirrel hunting seasons are closed during shotgun deer hunting season.

 

Next Saturday, the coyote hunting season opens and runs through March 8, 2017. There is no daily limit on them but they must be checked in at an official check station or online with MassWildlife.

 

It is important that hunters check the Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife Guide for a listing of all of the hunting regulations and remember that hunting on Sundays is prohibited.

 

Brake for moose

As you may be aware, there have been at least two moose/auto accidents in the Berkshires recently. The Berkshire Eagle has covered them and as a public service, cautioned drivers to be on the lookout for them especially while driving at night.  This is important and bears repeating.

Hitting a moose with a car is dangerous and the results can be tragic. In September and October, cows come into their breeding cycles and they become reckless and travel into residential areas or across major highways.

Because they have no predators, moose can be oblivious to the potential dangers posed by automobiles and most people are unaware of the number of moose in our midst.

Be particularly alert, especially at night during the fall breeding season.  Moose will step out onto a roadway without showing the slightest concern for oncoming traffic. With their long legs, a vehicle hitting a moose take the legs out from under them, flipping their bodies onto the car’s windshield or roof. The dark body is difficult to see and its eyes are much higher in the air than the level of a pair of white tail deer eyes.  Always use your bright lights when traveling at night when there is no oncoming traffic.

Youth deer hunt

MassWildlife reports that statewide there were 1,236 youth deer permits issued this year for the special Youth Deer Hunt Day which was on October 1.  Of that total, 698 permits went to youths aged 12 to14 year olds and 538 permits went to those aged 15 to 17.  Last year, the first year of the youth hunt, 1,339 youths participated.

As of this writing, there were 118 deer reported online.   MassWildlife did not yet have the season total as there are some physical check stations that are not online.  It is expected that the final number could reach between 120 and 125.   Last year 146 deer were harvested during the Youth Deer Hunt Day.

The accompanying picture is of 12- years old Juliann Lawson with her proud dad, Dan, and her first deer.  She harvested the adult doe in Williamstown where her grandfather, Bob McCarthy, let her hunt at his favorite stand.  According to Dan, it took about an hour to see the deer, and she didn’t miss.

 

Incidentally, Dan Lawson is an avid sportsman and valued delegate of the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen (BCLS), representing the East Mountain Sportsmen’s Club.  Juliann’s grandpa Bob McCarthy is also a well known local sportsman and delegate to the League.  He was named the 1987 BCLS Sportsman of the Year.  With mentors like that, how could she not succeed in bagging her deer.  It is great to see the hunting tradition passed on from generation to generation.

 

I hope to have the names of other successful youth deer hunters next week.

 

Fall trout stocking

Andrew Madden, DFW Western District Manager recently reported that they will not be stocking the East Branch of the Westfield River this fall due to low water conditions.  They do intend to stock the Deerfield River as well as the following lakes/ponds:  Onota Lake, Pontoosuc Lake, Laurel Lake, Stockbridge Bowl, Goose Pond, Richmond Pond, Lake Buel, Big Pond, Otis Reservoir, Windsor Lake, Windsor Pond, Ashfield Pond, Littleville Lake, North Pond, Upper Highland Lake and Norwich Lake.

 

Massachusetts spring trout stocking has begun

Due to the mild winter and apparent early spring, Mass DFW has already begun trout stocking. According to DFW Western District Manager Andrew Madden, they stock 25 lakes and ponds and 54 rivers and streams throughout all regions of the District.   Madden cautions that stocked waters are subject to change based on water body conditions, staffing, and stocking trucks functioning.

On Friday, March 7, they stocked Onota Lake in Pittsfield and Stockbridge Bowl in Stockbridge. The following waters were scheduled to be stocked last week:   Deerfield River in Buckland, Charlemont and Florida; Laurel Lake in Lee, Lake Garfield and Lake Buel in Monterey, West Branch of the Farmington River in Otis and Sandisfield, Pontoosuc Lake in Pittsfield and Richmond Pond in Richmond.

As in past years, I hope to get the trout stocking information to you as soon as possible. Many thanks to Andrew Madden and receptionist Deb Lipa for taking on the extra work of getting that information to me in time to include it in this column. The stocking schedule is also updated on the MassWildlife web page every Friday by noon.

Here’s a little tidbit of information that I picked up from the MassWildlife Facebook page. The question was asked if there is any success of naturally spawning trout from stocking, or does the current infrastructure require annual stocking. The answer received from MassWildlife was, “Our stocking program is meant to provide trout fishing opportunities for anglers–we’re not trying to get trout to reproduce.” *****

The Massachusetts Young Adult Turkey Hunting Program is a partnership program between MassWildlife, participating sportsmen’s clubs, and the Massachusetts State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. The Young Adult Turkey Hunt Day this year will be April 23.

Hunter safety is emphasized in all aspects of the program to help build the confidence of young hunters so they may feel comfortable hunting alone or with others in the field. This program is more than just a day in the field hunting turkey; it is a comprehensive recreational program that includes two parts: a pre-hunt workshop and a one-day mentored hunt.

Western District participating clubs are: East Mountain Sportsmen Club, Cheshire Rod & Gun Club, Lee Sportsmen’s Club, Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club and Worthington Rod and Gun Club. *****

Only 11 coyotes were entered into Dave’s Sporting Goods Coyote Contest this year, and the winners were as follows:  Once again, Carl Dolle of North Adams bagged the most coyotes with a tally of 7.   Dave Willette of Williamstown got the heaviest one which weighed 47.6 lbs., and   Samantha Trybus of Lanesborough won the random raffle.

 

You may be familiar with all of these names.  Last year, Dolle bagged the most coyotes with a tally of 22.  He also got the largest one last year weighing 46.8 lbs.  He bagged the largest coyote in the prior year, one weighing 50 lbs.  In the 2013 contest, Carl got the most coyotes with a tally of 24, and in 2012, he bagged the most coyotes with a tally of 16.    Willette, the author of the book “Coyote Wars”, has also bagged some 40+ lb coyotes in the past.  Trybus was featured in this column on March 23, 2014.   You may remember her picture kneeling next to three coyotes that she bagged.

 

Dave “DJ” Benham, proprietor of Dave’s Sporting Goods, commented that coyotes don’t get much bigger that what Dolle has been bagging.  On average, he said, they have been running between 30 and 37 lbs.   Out of about 1,000 coyotes that have been checked in at his store over the years, only two weighed 50 lbs or more.*****

The Lee Sportsmen’s Association will be conducting a NRA basic pistol course on March 26 from 5:30 to 9: 30pm.  This is the new blended learning course.  Sign up at the NRA at www.nraonlinetraining.org, NRA Basic Pistol Shooting.  The NRA charges a fee.  In this course participants will learn the attitude, skills and knowledge necessary to become a responsible gun owner in your home, on your time line.  The cost is $100.00 and LSA members get a discount.

 

Once you complete the online learning, sign up through the NRA website for its course on the range with instructors.  The course includes handling, range live and dry firing, cleaning, opportunities to shoot in different venues, and the current MA gun laws.  Upon successful completion, participants will receive a MA State Police Certificate for application for a License  To Carry. New candidates get a year membership included.   Call Vicki 413-770-9007 or lady45white@gmail.com for more information.  *****

 

So you have your FID card.  Do you want to learn how to shoot a shotgun?  The Lee Sportsmen’s Association will be running a one day course entitled Shotgun 101 for beginners on April 10 from 10am to 2:30 pm.  It will take you from the classroom learning about various types of shotguns, operation and components, to live shooting on their field in trap and skeet.   Limited spots are open.  The cost is $35 for LSA members and $45 for non-members.  Shotgun instructors will be Ken Pixley and John Ballard.  To register, call 413-770-9007. *****

MassWildlife caution us that black bears are starting to emerge from their winter dens. If you live in an area with bears, it’s time to take bird feeders down. Eliminating food is the first step in preventing conflicts with bears and other wildlife. Please remember the old saying which goes “A fed bear is a dead bear.”  Nothing good can come from a situation where a bear loses its fear of humans and seeks food in our neighborhoods.  To learn how to prevent conflicts with bears, click onto the MassWildlife web page.