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Spring Series: Bears, Birds, And The Berkshires

Humans aren’t the only ones eager to get back outside as the region reemerges from a long winter.

If you’re getting excited for warm spring weather and the promise of outdoor activity, you’re not alone.

“One of the things that’s a seasonal alert that we do want to remind people, is that bears are emerging from hibernation, and they’re looking for food," said Marion Larson. She's chief of information and education for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, also known as MassWildlife.

“Statewide, we have care and control of just over 200,000 acres of land,” Larson said.

Spring is a season of renewal, and for MassWildlife, it sees three animals return to the center of the natural stage. The first is the black bear, which boasts a population of over 4,500 in the state.

“We do start to get calls from people who are saying, hey, I’ve got a bear in my back yard, it’s taking down my feeders, it’s wrecked the trashcans, and we want to remind people, bears have been in the Berkshires for decades now, and that the less they associate birdseed and other human foods with people, the less problems there will be,” Larson said.

MassWildlife keeps an eye on black bears year-round, but they truly take the spotlight come spring.

“Just in the last couple of weeks, we have finished up our bear collaring activity. We have been conducting long-range studies on bears and visiting bear dens with females and their young ones. The males have probably come out, the females that have yearlings are out, the last to emerge will be the female bears that had young this year,” said Larson.

But don’t let the threat of an active black bear population deter you from enjoying the Berkshire spring. Only two fatal black bear attacks were recorded in the United States last year, and both were in Alaska. Western District Manager Andrew Madden runs the Mass Wildlife office in Dalton.

“We have some great properties down in Southern Berkshire County, like Three Mile Pond in Sheffield. We have some wonderful properties in Central Berkshire County like the Moran Wildlife Management area in Windsor, or the Chalet wildlife management area which is in Chesire and Windsor, and then we have some up in North Berkshire County as well, we have the Green River wildlife management area, that’s up in Williamstown, so we have the county pretty well covered,” said Madden.

Madden gave his insider take on the Berkshires’ finest natural features for the season.

“One of the really nice things that we have in Berkshire County and on some of the Fish and Wildlife land are some of these small clear headwater streams. We have some really good small streams with great water quality and great fishing opportunities, so I think you could just spend time just looking at where those little streams come into the big rivers, follow them upstream, and you find some beautiful falls and plunge pools and great brook trout populations,” said Madden.

When MassWildlife isn’t collaring bears, it’s stocking fish — to the tune of 100,000 in Berkshire County’s waterways every spring.

“We have trucks with tanks on them, we go down to our hatcheries which produce the fish, and we load up the trucks with fish, we drive them back out here to Berkshire County, and then we stock them out into our waters,” Madden said.

And when it’s not collaring bears OR stocking fish, the Berkshire office of MassWildlife has its eyes on the skies.

“As of right now, we have five known nests in the Berkshires. And we suspect that there’s probably two or three or maybe even more than that we don’t know about yet,” Madden said.

Madden is talking about bald eagles.

“It’s really interesting to put bands on those birds and track them for their entire life in some cases — 20-plus years in some instances,” said Madden.

The majestic birds were adopted as the national emblem of the United States in 1782 when the country formalized its official seal.

“They go quite a long ways. We’ve had birds that have been banded here in Berkshire County that have spent time down in Maryland, some that have nested in New York, some that have traveled up to Maine. Once they get to a stage where they’re ready to move off from the adults, they cover quite a large area, and they might set up a nesting territory really anywhere in the Northeast and along the East Coast,” said Madden.

MassWildlife encourages residents enjoying the spring to report any eagle sightings to its office.

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