Leftover Feedback

Time to clean out the desktop pile of gathered snail-mail and email printouts, all containing interesting comments from readers who reacted to topics covered here recently, particularly Quabbin rattlesnakes, which created quite a stir, plus analysis pertaining to the recent preliminary Massachusetts deer harvest.

It gets better. We’ll also take a look at comments from a man who, after reading about the rattlesnakes, wanted to report numerous highway moose sightings that have crossed his path while passing through Quabbin Country. Then, last but not least, comments from an amusing letter to the editor from “The Pied Piper of Quabbin,” who didn’t make it to print because of the unacceptable pseudonym. We’ll let that slide here.

All of the comments have from the start been worth sharing. Yet, till now, there’s been no way to work them into previous narratives. So, here we go with a plateful of feedback leftovers from four readers.

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Let’s start with Kathy-Ann Becker of Wendell, acclaimed author of the 2013 novel “Silencing The Women: The Witch Trials of Mary Bliss Parsons,” the 17th-century Northampton wife of William Pynchon’s fur-trader extraordinaire Joseph Parsons, from whom we both descend.

Though we have in the past discussed our genealogical profiles, this latest string of emails pertained to an early Pioneer Valley rattlesnake incident she learned of while scouring primary records to glean helpful information for her novel.

She prefaced her little tidbit of 17th-century history folklore with, “Here is written testimony (misspellings unchanged) from the case of Mary Bliss Parsons that pertains to rattlesnakes,” dated Aug. 18, 1656, testified on oath before William Houlton and Thomas Bascum:

“George Alexander, Samuel Adams and Goody Webb testifieth that they were present when the ox of William Hannum was stung with the rattle snake and they did notice nothing but what might come to pass in an ordinary way that thy killed the rattle snake.”

Then, in further under-oath testimony before Elizur Holyoke, Hannum recalled, “… going to Windsor (Conn.) with my oxen and cart and about 4 mile from our town (Northampton) as I was going whether my ox hung out his tongue or whether he went to eat for it fell out that a wrattle snake bitt him on the tongue and there he died. These things doe sometimes run in my mind that I cannot have my mind from this (Parsons) Woman that if she be not right this way she may bee the cause of these things, though I desire to look at over the rulinge hand of God on all.”

Four miles south of Northampton would have placed this unfortunate 17th-century incident at a location known to this day as a rattlesnake lair — the area surrounding Mt. Tom.

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Moving from vipers to large quadripeds — namely moose — this little gem from daily Orange-to-Springfield commuter Mark LaBier, to whom moose sightings along Route 202 have become common:
“I have been driving to Springfield for 20 years and have seen hundreds of moose, usually mothers and little ones. Today, traveling south through Pelham, there were two huge bulls, one in the left lane, one in the right lane, first time ever I was scared of hitting them. Is this normal?

Hmmmm? Not sure how to answer that question.

“Also, if there is any (future) talk of (mountain lions), I have seen one chasing a coyote in Orange right by the Mattawa exit, and I have seen so many different animals and birds of prey that it makes the drive awesome.”

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Next up, responding to last week’s column about the preliminary 2015 deer harvest and unconfirmed suspicion by hunters that the deer population took a serious hit due to winter mortality last year. Questioned about that possibility last week, state Deer Project Leader David Stainbrook said MassWildlife looked into it but its investigation bore no fruit.

Well, get a load of this information from reader Jason MacLean, who wrote:

“I started hunting Zone 11 about three years ago, and once I finished graduate school started hunting more seriously. Scouting this past summer for the upcoming fall season, my buddy and I found 11 winter/coyote kills (it’s tough to tell the difference). My friend shot a deer this year during archery season and by the time he climbed down from his tree stand, a coyote was already chewing on the deer’s leg. Bold, huh?”

Yes. Bold indeed. Not surprising, though. Similar tales have been circulating for years among deer hunters beaten to mortally wounded deer by a coyote or coyotes.
MacLean wasn’t through. He also had this suggestion:

“We’re doing our best to hunt coyotes so more fawns survive to adulthood but we can hunt only Saturdays due to our work schedules,” he complained. “It would be awesome if MA was like RI, and coyote hunting was year round on private property with Sunday hunting permitted.”

Just a little food for thought.

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Last but not least, back to snakes and The Pied Piper of Quabbin, who I hesitate to call a conspiracy theorist but can’t be far off.

Responding to the column titled “Rattler flap,” first mention here of MassWildlife’s proposal to stock endangered Timber Rattlers on a Quabbin island, the ole self-described Pied Piper harkens back to the 1930’s when, soon after wiping four rural towns from the face of the earth to supply clear, cold water for thirsty Boston, which had polluted its own, it was discovered that filling the large reservoir had sent rats scurrying to the uplands and out of harm’s way. To take care of this rat problem at farms and homes along the reservation’s periphery, the state apparently thought rattlesnakes would be a tidy solution. Well, according to The Pied Piper, the plan was indeed carried out under the assumption that the snakes would reduce the rat problem in a hurry then die off over winter, which didn’t go as planned.

According to The Piper, “Some of them … survived in pockets that are all (not coincidentally) adjacent to/near the Quabbin.”

But he wasn’t done yet. Uh-ah. He next decided to jump into the global-warming/climate-change debate as it relates to rattlesnakes and other wildlife.

“Now, if you make a scientifically based assumption that the climate of this area of New England, just like ‘global climate,’ is constantly cycling between warmer/cooler, and has been for all geologic time, you will realize that certain animal populations go up and down naturally, along with the temperature cycles and related factors, such as predator-prey cycles.

“Recently, MassWildlife declared a problem (extinction) and wants to solve it by introducing rattlesnakes to a Quabbin island to ‘protect and enhance endangered species in the name of conservation.’”

“Haha … back in the 1930s, they just wanted to get rid of rats. … Quite a commentary on how far societal ‘values’ have drifted from practical reality.

“I wonder if there are any rats on that Quabbin island — or anything else rattlers eat? And once the rattlers eat their fill, what’s next? Weekly speedboat CARE packages of snake food — at taxpayers’ expense?”

There’s more, but any idiot can see where it’s going.

Yes, that Quabbin-rattlers story is a tale that just keeps on giving. The folks who proposed it should have known it would get a little wild. It has. Not over yet.

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