Just when I thought the black bear articles were all wrapped up for the year, new information came in. Ed Elias of Hancock bagged the second largest bear in the state this year. It weighed 339 pounds dressed out, but when one considers that the innards weigh nearly 20 percent, the live weight of that bear had to be over 400 pounds. It was bagged in Pittsfield on Nov. 8 with a bow and arrow and its weight was certified at the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife's Hubbard Avenue office. (The largest bear which was checked in state-wide weighed 378 pounds dressed and was taken in Northfield also by bow and arrow. Live weight of that bear had to be around 450 pounds).
As Ed relates it, he was bow hunting for deer from his tree stand when he heard a commotion from a distance. At first, he thought the sound might have come from some deer, but when he heard it again, he suspected that there were a couple of bears fighting nearby. After a while, he saw a medium-sized bear go by his stand and it kept looking behind him. He let that bear go by and shortly thereafter, the big one approached him. He waited until it was about 30 yards away and let his arrow fly. It was a lethal lung shot and it died a short distance away, right next to where his brother David was hunting.
After gutting out the animal, the fun part began ... dragging the big bear out of the woods. In spite of help from his brother, they were only able to drag it about three feet at a time. The dragging ropes broke twice during the drag, but they finally got the animal out onto a wood road and onto a truck.
The preliminary measurement of the bear's skull was 19 inches and after the necessary preparations and a little shrinkage, this bear might make the Pope & Young record books for Masschusetts. In order to qualify, the skull must measure 18 inches. Elias believes that only five bears which were taken in Massachusetts have made that prestigious goal. He plans to have Rick LaBleau of Adams prepare a full-sized mount of the animal.
In no other issue of this column was the reader response as large as the one which appeared after this past December 2 article dealing with the disconnection of our youth with nature. All who corresponded agreed that there is a real problem. Several commented on how their dads took them out hunting, fishing or camping and got them interested in nature at a very young age, and their love for the outdoors never waned. A few parents wrote with pride that they are continuing the outdoor traditions and always take their kids out with them. Some suggested that I keep this subject in the forefront of the column and to urge parents/grandparents to do something about it. Others questioned how youths can be introduced to the outdoors when their parents themselves suffer a "nature deficit disorder."
Well, Joan Cousins, co-founder and coordinator of Berkshire Keeping Track, offers a possible solution. There are a few spaces left in the second Berkshire Keeping Track, a wildlife monitoring program which starts January 12 and includes six intensive field trainings (one weekend day per month) with Susan Morse, a nationally recognized naturalist and habitat specialist with 30 years experience tracking wildlife and interpreting their behavior. Morse founded the nonprofit Keeping Track to inspire community participation in the stewardship of wildlife habitat. She trains volunteers for the only citizen-science program in the nation working with mammals.
Cousins feels that participation in this program provides many benefits such as: "feeling more aware of and connected to the natural world; being inspired and motivated to get outside in the winter as well as other times of year, thereby helping to fight weight gain, depression, and anxiety; discovering new ways to get children engaged in and fascinated by wildlife behavior and habitat needs; reducing "Nature-Deficit Syndrome"; having a fun approach to meeting and learning from other local nature enthusiasts; getting sparked to help identify and protect prime local wildlife habitat; add another tool to combat global warming and sustain safe drinking water and clean air."
"What a great New Year's resolution," Cousins said, "to introduce the kids to the great outdoors."
For information on the monitoring program: www.keepingtrack.org, for an application, training dates, cost, and other Berkshire program details, go to www.thebeatnews.org. For additional questions: Joan Cousins, Berkshire Keeping Track Coordinator (413) 329-7382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This past Thursday at its monthly meeting, the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited presented its most prestigious award, the Crooked Staff Award, to Len Gigliotti of Lanesborough. This award is presented to the person who most exemplifies the ideals of Trout Unlimited; those being the conservation, restoration and protection of North America's trout and salmon and their watersheds.
Gigliotti has served the chapter in various capacities over many years. He is a longtime Board member, former treasurer and former vice president. Because he is well known and respected by so many people in the community, he is the chapter's "go to" person when it comes to raising funds by selling raffle tickets, soliciting donations, selling advertising space in its newsletter, and promoting the chapter in various ways. He is a darn good flyfisherman, too.
Incidentally, the chapter recently elected me its president, Ron Wojcik of Windsor its vice president, Dr. Herb Rod of Pittsfield its treasurer and Michael Shepard of Dalton its secretary. We consider ourselves fortunate indeed to have a person like Len Gigliotti serving on our board.
To reach Gene Chague: Berkwoodsandwaters@adelphia.net. (413)637-1818.