In his January report to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Western District Manager Andrew Madden reported on the status of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) in Massachusetts.
It has now been discovered in four regions of Massachusetts (Berkshire County, Andover, Boston and Worcester). In the Berkshires, EAB was first discovered in Dalton but has now also been found in Windsor, Hancock and Lee.
Since its discovery in 2002 in Michigan, the EAB has been spreading rapidly throughout the Midwest and Northeast. EAB kills the ash tree within a couple of years of infestation. Madden feels that it is likely that we will approach complete mortality of untreated ash trees over the next 10-20 years.
Ash trees make up 4-8% of the hardwood forests in Massachusetts, but compose a larger percentage in Berkshire County. Pesticide treatments can be effective in treating individual trees and biological controls have been introduced with some evidence of early success.
Hunters, hikers and other users of wooded areas should be aware that infested trees deteriorate rapidly, completely dry out and may come down unpredictably with very little force.
Small windstorms shatter them, so don't trust them. In the past, one could feel pretty solid standing on a one-inch ash limb but if infested don't even go near a five-inch limb. They dry out so much that they are completely unpredictable.
Madden advises bow hunters to pay special attention to the ash trees and pick a different kind of tree for their tree stands. Turkey hunters who often sit at the foot of trees should avoid them also.
Many towns have ash trees along their streets and will have to address this issue lest they be falling on telephone and power lines, or even worse, on people.
Madden also reported that the DFW has made a new land acquisition. Located in the Town of Egremont, this new parcel contains about 23 acres and has 960 feet of road frontage along Rowe Road and about 2,500 feet along the Green River, an excellent cold water stream.
The property abuts other lands along the Green River and Rowe Road owned by the DFW (North Egremont Wildlife Management Area), and it also abuts land along the Green River owned by the Egremont Land Trust which is under a Conservation Easement (C/E) held by the DFW (North Egremont WCE). Funding for a large portion of the acquisition came from the Housatonic Natural Resources Damages program.
MassWildlife Furbearer and Black Bear Project Leader Laura Conlee recently reported that statewide, some 228 bears were harvested during the three 2015 open seasons combined. The record harvest of 240 bears occurred in 2014.
During the traditional September and November seasons, a total of 175 bears were taken, while an additional 53 bears were taken during the new two-week season which ran concurrently with the shotgun deer season.
The bears are gradually spreading eastward in the Commonwealth. Last year, six bears were taken in Wildlife Management Zone 8 and two in WMZ 9. No bears were taken yet in the newly-opened WMZs to the east of Zone 9, but it's just a matter of time. No information is available yet as to the harvest numbers here in the Western District (Zones 1 through 4).
In my Dec. 13, 2015 column, I had mentioned a 450-pound live weight bear which was harvested by Dick Superneau of Clarksburg. It weighed 375 pounds field dressed.
Well, it turns out that a much larger bear was taken last December in Athol by Jim Mundell of Athol.
It took Mundell four hours to get it out of the woods with the use of a backhoe. When he checked his bear in at the Sunderland Hatchery, it weighed 498 pounds field dressed and perhaps is the state "unofficial" record.
Massachusetts does not keep official state bear records but they do maintain a database of the largest bears on record. According to the UMASS Cooperative Extension System, the existing state record (dressed weight) for a male black bear in Massachusetts was 467 pounds.
Regardless of whether it is the new state record, the 498 pounds was the weight after the bear had been dressed, and it was estimated by officials to have weighed 650 pounds while alive. To put that in perspective, according to the MassWildlife website, Massachusetts male black bears average 230 pounds, while females average 140 pounds.
To see a picture of that bear, google "Mass state record black bear."
The annual Fly Fishing Show will take place from Jan. 22 through 24 at the Royal Plaza Trade Center in Marlborough, Mass. There will be over 50 talks and demonstrations each day. While there, you might shop for the newest tackle, book your next dream trip, watch tying and casting demos and learn from the experts.
All the new rods, reels, fly tying materials, books, DVDs and latest equipment will be on display to test and purchase. There is a casting pond for casting demos and it is available to test your new rod. Some of the celebrity authors this year include Ed Engle, Jay "Fishy" Fullum, Bob Popovics, Ben Furminsky, Bob Romano and others, and they will be happy to autograph your books.
Show Hours are Friday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
Ticket costs are $15 for one day, $25 for a two-day pass and $35 for a three-day pass. Children under five are free while children under 12 are $2. Scouts under 16 in uniform are free and Active Military with ID are $10. Click onto flyfishingshow.com/Marlborough__MA.html for more details.
For flyfishers/flytyers this is a must-attend event.
Questions/comments: Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com. Phone/fax: (413) 637-1818