Sunday, November 18, 2007

Coyotes and fishers and moose (Oh my)

Stan Freeman at the Springfield Republican wrote an interesting story this week about how our Eastern coyotes are actually a genetic blend of Western coyote and Eastern wolf!

Wildlife has been returning to Massachusetts in a big way. I remember a few years ago, as I was driving up Bay St., I saw a magnificent, fully antlered deer standing just behind the wrought iron fence at Oak Grove Cemetery. I called the groundskeeper when I got to work and he was well aware of the buck and was making his own calls to various state agencies for guidance.

Fishers are back, too. The largest member of the weasel family, their reputation as cat killers is probably well-deserved. I lived in Maine for about five years in the early 70's, where fishers had an almost mythical character. I saw one once, streaking across a back road at twilight. My hair stood on end. They were reintroduced in Massachusetts in the 1950's by the logging industry because they are one of the porcupine's only predators.

Thanks to the reforestation of Massachusetts, even moose are returning.. We now have a population of about 1,000 established in just 25 years, according to Stephen DeStephano, research professor at UMass, Amherst.

I've often thought about how amazing it is that Massachusetts is more forested now than a hundred years ago. Our forests started their road to recovery during the Gold Rush of 1849 and took another step forward during the Civil War, when many returning soldiers abandoned farming entirely. Then, in the 1930's, Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) put 10,000 men and boys to work in our forests. You can read more about Massachusett's history of forest conservation at MA's Department of Conservation and Recreation. Why don't we do something like this again?

One sad note in this picture is that the increase in forest cover equals the decline in local agricultural production. But that's another story.

Graphic from David Foster; 'Wildlands and Woodlands: A Vision for the Forests of Massachusetts" Harvard Forest, Harvard University, 2006/

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember a few years ago traveling up Roosevelt Ave. in Springfield, Ma. Dawn was just breaking and as I drove along I seen up ahead what appeared to be a large dog crossing the road toward the woods of Blunt Park. But I realized what I was looking at was no dog. This animal walked with a long gate (or stride) longer than any dog I know including those big "Red Bone" hunting hounds who's stride is about twenty four inches. The animal I saw was walking with a twenty eight or twenty nine inch gate. Then I realized what I was looking at. This was no large dog and it was way to big for a coyote. I knew what was in the road ahead was an eastern timber wolf. In the middle of town! Walking like he or she owned the place.By the time I got up to where it crossed the road,it was at the edge of the park about to disappear into the under brush. As I slowed the car to get a better look it stopped turned and looked right at me. I swear to this day that it seemed to smile at me as if to say: "Pleased to meet you I guess you know my name"