Mass Wildlife proposing dog regulations for wildlife management areas

SOUTHWICK – On January 2 the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife announced that they are proposing leash and waste disposal regulations for dogs on Wildlife Management areas across the commonwealth.

Mass Wildlife has a long tradition of allowing dogs in the wildlife management areas and they still want to welcome dogs on those properties but they explained why this proposal is being created.

Southwick Wildlife Management Area on South Longyard Road. (WNG File Photo)

“Mass Wildlife proposes to take this action due to repeated complaints from WMA users about negative and unsafe encounters with unleashed dogs and issues with dog waste. Mass Wildlife protects and manages these areas to sustain wildlife abundance and diversity and provide wildlife-related recreation, including hunting, fishing and wildlife-watching, while at the same time providing a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience for all visitors.”

The information further states what the specific regulations would be. “The proposed regulations require leashing dogs and other domestic animals on WMAs. 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 Mass Wildlife. Leashing dogs decreases conflicts with both people and other dogs, resulting in a safer and more positive experience for everyone.

The proposal also requires dog owners to pick up dog waste and dispose of it offsite. Removing dog waste reduces nuisance and protects the safety and health of dogs and other pets, people, and wildlife.”

Locally, this affects the wildlife management area in Southwick on South Longyard Road where many people walk their dogs on that property.

In Mass Wildlife’s statement it lists examples at different wildlife management areas throughout the Connecticut River Valley where there have been incidents. One of those incidents took place in Southwick last summer where there was fencing and signage at the area but Mass Wildlife employees observed dogs wading and swimming in a vernal pool that is strictly used for Spadefoots. An endangered amphibian, Spadefoots use the vernal during their metamorphosis stage.

A public hearing regarding this proposed regulation will take place on February 6 at 7 p.m. at the Mass Wildlife Headquarters in Westborough, Mass.

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