Thanks to returning forests and habitat protection, the bear population in Vermont is growing 3 to 5% each year.
Download the teaching materials created by Robin Gannon (and students), E. Montpelier Elementary School, E. Montpelier, VT.
- Scott Darling, Wildlife Biologist
Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife
- Among the Bears by
Benjamin Kilham & Ed Gray
Invasive exotic plant species can be found throughout Vermont. The list of plants is long and includes the water chestnut, purple loosestrife, flowering rush and Eurasian milfoil. Not native to the state, they have no natural predators and therefore thrive, pushing out native plants and destroying habitat for animals. Fortunately, groups like the Nature Conservancy have programs to control some of these species. Each summer these groups gather volunteers to pull invasive water chestnuts from East Creek in Shoreham. We accompany Nature Conservancy staff and volunteers as they head out to East Creek and its mouth at Lake Champlain to pull invasive plants.
There's an exciting story behind every set of antlers that is brought home by a hunter. In most cases, the bigger the rack, the larger the animal. Keeping a record of the measurements pays tribute to the hunter, the animal and the managed habitat they come from. The Boone & Crockett Club is the oldest conservation club in the United States. Started by Teddy Roosevelt in 1887, it promotes conservation and outdoor ethics, and supports wildlife research and management. The club maintains records for North America's big game animals. A Boone & Crockett measurer uses special guidelines to measure both antlers and skulls to determine an animal's size. The club maintains statistics for Canada, Mexico and the United States. At the Sportsmen's and Women's Appreciation Banquet organized by the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife every two years, hunters are encouraged to bring in their racks for measurement by the state's only Boone & Crockett certified measurer. We visit this year's banquet at the Montpelier Elk's Club, where certified measurer Ron Boucher shows us how it's done.
- Ron Boucher
P.O. Box 373
Wallingford, VT 05773
Vermont is home to 9 species of bats. Biologists recently discovered that large numbers of Indiana bats spend the summer in the Champlain Valley.
Download the teaching materials created by Mary Anne Deer (and students), Putney Central School, Putney, VT.
About a decade ago, a group of hunters got together to do volunteer work improving the habitats of Vermont's wild creatures. From that small beginning, the Working for Wildlife program has spread to an effort involving volunteers at dozens of sites around the state on the last weekend in April. The focus is always on making the wild land work better for the wildlife that live there. We travel to the White River to look at efforts to reform a riparian buffer and to the woods of central Vermont to watch apple trees being released.
Wood turtles have been a part of Vermont's diverse wildlife for the past ten thousand years. These moderately sized turtles with reddish-orange skin and roughly textured shells may live 60 years. But despite their long history, concern for this species is on the rise in the northeast due to the turtles' region-wide decline. Humans are the main cause of this. As more housing and commercial development takes place near streams, rivers and wetlands, turtles loose habitat. The building of roads through turtle corridors creates a dangerous situation for the creatures. In addition, wood turtles have been removed from the wild and kept as pets by individuals unaware that they were seriously impacting the turtle population. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department monitors wood turtle populations by tagging selected turtles with radio transmitters in an effort to learn more about how they adapt to the changing landscape. We venture out into the field with Steve Parren, chief of the department's Nongame and Natural Heritage Program (NNHP) to track tagged wood turtles.
If you've seen a five-lined skink in Vermont, consider yourself lucky. Though much more common in warmer climates, in New England, these elusive reptiles are only found in small, specialized habitats of Vermont and Connecticut. Though they come out during the daytime hours, they are one of nature's most seldom seen reptiles here in the north. The five-lined skink is a smooth shiny lizard about five to eight inches long, with rows of tiny scales around the center of their body. Their name comes from the five yellow-toned stripes running from their nose down through their tail. Another interesting marking found on juvenile skinks is their bright blue tails. And they're fast — hence the nickname "blue-tailed swift." Over time those tails turn gray and their pattern becomes less conspicuous. Being conspicuous is not in the lizard's nature. Five-Lined SkinkThey prefer steep rocky areas with patchy tree and shrub cover, rotten logs and leaf litter. They're very fast and are quick to run for cover when a predator is near. They also have an interesting defense mechanism: If caught, they can shed their tail which has the unique ability to squirm on it's own, diverting the attention of the predator and allowing the lizard to beat a hasty retreat. Vermont is the extent of the skink's northern range and so far their populations have only been recorded in the town of West Haven. Thanks to the Nature Conservancy, the land that supports Vermont's only skink population is protected from development. In this segment we head out with a Nature Conservancy volunteer to attempt to find and videotape the elusive five-lined skink in its Vermont habitat.
Wild animals and birds are injured in Vermont on almost a daily basis. Whether they are hit by cars, injured by pets or intentionally wounded by humans, they often will die without immediate care. But there is hope for wildlife from a network of rehabilitators. Licensed by the state and supported by veterinarians, who donate their time, these individuals have devoted themselves to caring for injured creatures with the ultimate goal of returning them to the wild. Helena Nordstrom is a wildlife rehabilitator. She says that there is a lot to working with wild animals. "You have to know something about ecology, natural history, veterinary medicine. You have to have common sense. You have to be compassionate, but not overly sentimental when you take in animals. And you have to have a strong sense of ethics, too." Animals released back into the wild must be able to hunt for themselves. They must be physically well enough to survive the elements. And most critical of all, they must be afraid of humans. To find a licensed wildlife rehabilitator near you, call your town clerk, local veterinarian or nearest State Police barracks. We visit Helena and look in on a current squirrel rehab project. We then head to the Vermont Institute of Natural Science in Woodstock, where Mike Pratt heads up avian rehabilitation efforts for such birds as herons, hawks and owls.
Usually Conservation Camp at Buck Lake in Woodbury is filled with kids ages 12 to 14 getting hands-on experience in things such as fishery and wildlife management, hunter firearms safety, fishing techniques and wetland investigation. But for one week in July, it's the teachers who are at camp learning. It's a program called "Wildlife Management for Educators." For one week, teachers learn firsthand about fish and wildlife management issues, ecology, conservation and forestry. Combining classroom studies and field trips into the woods, wetlands, lakes and streams of Vermont, the aim of the program is to infuse fish and wildlife conservation messages into teachers' classroom curricula. In this segment, Outdoor Journal spends a day with a group of teachers as they venture into forests and streams to measure fish populations, examine insects, visit deer wintering yards and collect various plant and animal specimens.
As a landowner, there's nothing more satisfying than to see deer, turkey and other wildlife using your property. But as more and more land is lost to development, the importance of managing habitat for wildlife is increasing. With the help of representatives from Wildlife Habitat Consultants, as well as state and federal wildlife biologists, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department has sponsored workshops to educate landowners on the benefits of habitat improvements.