Complete harvest numbers won’t be available until mid-winter, but two local checking stations reported a substantial increase for the first week of the season compared to previous years.
The two-week shotgun season ended Dec. 8 and most hunters in this part of the state are saying they were impressed with the amount of deer they’ve seen. Complete harvest numbers won’t be available until mid-winter, but two local checking stations reported a substantial increase for the first week of the season compared to previous years.
Reedy’s Archery in Middleboro had checked in 202 deer as of Saturday afternoon with more expected by the end of the day. At TC’s Sports Den in Halifax MassWildlife biologist H Heusmann had checked in 104 deer. Last year’s total was 68 deer for the first week. The breakdown by day was: Monday, 16; Tuesday, 23; Wednesday, 17; Thursday, 10; Friday, 16; and Saturday, 22.
Heusmann said some of the deer were big bucks with impressive antlers. On Friday a huge buck came in that was the oldest male he has ever checked in with an estimated age of 8½ years. The wear on the teeth determines age and he said the rear molars were worn right down to the gums.
During the first week of the season all deer must be reported in person at a checking station. MassWildlife estimates deer populations throughout the state by annually evaluating hunter harvest data and biological data collected at check stations. To better understand local deer densities and impacts to habitat, state biologists also perform vegetation surveys and pellet counts. Hunters in Massachusetts also provide valuable information by reporting deer sightings in a voluntary online survey each year.
New dog regulations: The Mass. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife has a long tradition of welcoming dogs on its Wildlife Management Areas. Dogs are still welcome, but beginning in January, dog handlers must comply with new leash and waste-disposal regulations.
Dogs and other domestic animals must be on a physical leash/tether while on WMAs. Leashing dogs decreases conflicts with people and other dogs, resulting in a safer and more positive experience for everyone. Dogs may be off-leash only when hunting or hunt-training with licensed hunters under existing regulations, or if they are participating in retriever or bird dog trial events that have been permitted by MassWildlife.
Dog feces in the WMA must be picked up by dog handlers and disposed of offsite. Licensed hunters engaged in hunting or hunt training, and those participating in sanctioned field trials are exempt from this requirement. Dog feces in WMA parking areas and within 100 feet of the parking area must be picked up by ALL dog handlers and disposed of off the WMA.
MassWildlife protects and manages its WMAs to sustain wildlife abundance and to provide wildlife-related recreation such as hunting, fishing, and wildlife-watching. At the same time it strives to provide a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience for all visitors.
Over the years, the state has received numerous complaints from WMA users about negative and unsafe encounters with unleashed dogs and issues with dog waste. The most common complaints include dog attacks and bites and piles of accumulating dog waste which is a nuisance and health concern for pets, people and wildlife.
Other incidents and complaints from WMA users involved: user conflicts between loose dogs with hunters, birders, field trial dog participants, naturalists and hikers; observations of dogs harassing or chasing wildlife; dogs chasing or killing livestock on abutting property; chasing/harassing neighboring property owners and families; dogs spooking horses, resulting in injuries to riders or horses; dogs trampling through posted endangered species restoration projects or newly planted agricultural crops.
The new regulations were drafted after a staff review and presentation to the Fisheries and Wildlife Board. A public hearing was held in February 2018. After considering written and oral comments submitted during the public hearing, amendments were made and the final regulation package was approved by the Fisheries and Wildlife Board March 14, 2018. The regulations will go into effect on January 11, 2019.
Though many municipalities have leash or animal control bylaws, they do not have legal standing on state lands; the new WMA regulations address this disparity. Enforcement of these regulations, as with all Wildlife Management Area Regulations, is carried out by the Massachusetts Environmental Police. State and municipal police departments also have authority to enforce Wildlife Management Area regulations.