Frances A. Crane Wildlife Management Area, Barnstable County, Massachusetts

About Frances A. Crane WMA

This WMA protects more than 1,900 acres near the town of Falmouth on lower Cape Cod. It is divided into a “Pheasant Area” of more than 1,500 acres (pheasants are stocked there during hunting season) and a “Quail Area” with nearly 400 acres (bobwhite quail are stocked there during hunting season). The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) manages the tract.

Although Crane WMA is surrounded by roads and residential areas, the region still has many acres of conserved and undeveloped land, including Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge; tribal lands of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe; and the 22,000-acre Massachusetts Military Reservation, which borders Crane WMA on the north.

Crane WMA is largely flat, with dry, sandy soil. Habitats include forested uplands, pitch pine/scrub oak barrens, sandplain grasslands, scattered wetlands, and small forest openings and fields that were once used for vegetable farming and pasturing livestock.

Deer, rabbit, squirrel, fox, coyote, quail, grouse, woodcock, and numerous songbirds live on the WMA, which is one of the state’s most popular public areas, used for a host of outdoor activities including hunting, birding, hiking, horseback riding, and field-trialing hunting dogs.

Improving the Land for Woodcock

Through its Upland Habitat Management Program, MassWildlife manages Crane WMA as a mosaic of field and pitch pine/oak savannah habitats. Between 2006 and 2010, pole-stage and mature trees were harvested from 285 wooded acres, creating young, vigorously regrowing forest.


Habitat work conducted on Crane WMA may benefit New England cottontails, which have historically been found in the region.

On 80 acres, managers suppressed invasive exotic shrubs (multiflora rose, autumn olive, and Asiatic bittersweet) through cutting and applying herbicides. Managers maintain old-field and grassland habitats by mowing them every several years. In the future, periodic small (approximately 25-acre) controlled burns will help keep vegetation in a low, shrubby state.

A 2004 bird survey turned up the following Massachusetts “species of conservation concern” at Crane WMA: black-billed cuckoo, common yellowthroat, Eastern towhee, field sparrow, indigo bunting, Northern bobwhite, prairie warbler, and tree swallow. Creating and maintaining old-field and shrubland habitats on the WMA also help woodcock, box turtles, several rare moth and butterfly species, and Nantucket shadbush, a rare shrub.

Woodcock regularly sing on Crane WMA in spring. Brood-rearing and feeding cover exists on edges of wooded areas, in the broader hedgerows, in scrub/shrub habitats, and in wooded areas that have been logged and are now growing back as young forest.

Other Factors

Parts of Cape Cod support good populations of New England cottontail, a rare species of rabbit slightly smaller than the more-common Eastern cottontail that was introduced into the region during the twentieth century. MassWildlife biologists are surveying the state to find out where New England cottontails live, whether local populations are healthy or dwindling, and where habitat can be improved or created to help this threatened mammal.

New England cottontails have not yet been documented on Crane WMA, but the area may have pockets of the cottontails and may prove to be good habitat for the species. Research has shown that New England cottontails need thickets and shrubby areas of at least 12 to 25 acres to feed, reproduce, and evade predators. Following intensive management activities, there are now many openings of that size and larger on Crane WMA.

Funding and Partners

Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Ruffed Grouse Society, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Wildlife Management Institute.

How to Visit

For a map showing the “Pheasant Area” and the “Quail Area” (much of the woodcock habitat work has been done on the “Quail Area”), see

For more information contact David Scarpitti, Upland Game Bird Biologist, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, 1 Rabbit Hill Rd., Westborough, MA 01581, 508-389-6300, email

See for information on MassWildlife’s Upland Habitat Management Program.