Bird-lovers urged to support habitat conservation
The month of May is a time birders look forward to all year as one of the best times to get out and see or hear birds. This spring, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is asking Vermonters to show their support for bird conservation by purchasing a Vermont Habitat Stamp. The stamp is available online at vtfishandwildlife.com.
"If we want to conserve birds, we have to conserve the habitat they need to survive. It's just that simple," said Paul Hamelin, biologist for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. "Many of the best places in Vermont for birds to feed and nest are on publically-owned wildlife management areas. The Habitat Stamp helps conserve these places so that we can continue to provide birds with a place to call home, and provide people with great opportunities to see birds in the wild."
Hamelin cited Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area as one of the state's most popular sites for birders, who come to see more than 200 species of birds. The annual snow goose migration stops over at Dead Creek in the spring and fall, drawing thousands of visitors with cameras and binoculars in tow. The area is also famous for its wide variety of shore birds, raptors, and waterfowl.
Hamelin also pointed to several other wildlife management areas that are owned and operated by the Fish & Wildlife Department as great places to see birds, such as Eagle Point in Newport and Bird Mountain in Poultney. These lands also provide habitat for all wildlife and native plants in the state, in addition to public access for hunting, fishing, and wildlife watching.
The Vermont Habitat Stamp was first issued in May of 2015 and has already seen tremendous support from the public. The Habitat Stamp is a voluntary donation to habitat conservation in Vermont. The actual 'stamp' comes either printed on the license of hunters and anglers who purchase it, or it comes as a bumper sticker in the mail to people who donate online at vtfishandwildlife.com. The recommended cost is $15, although some donors have chosen to contribute up to $1,000 to support habitat conservation in Vermont.
"Just one year in, the Habitat Stamp program has greatly surpassed our expectations, showing that Vermonters care deeply about conservation," said Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter. "We've already used funds to expand one wildlife management area, and we have several more projects that we're looking to apply funds to in 2016 in locations throughout the state. We can't thank the people who have given to the program enough."
Fawns are arriving; leave them alone
The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department says deer fawns are being born this time of year and asks that people avoid disturbing or picking them up.
Most deer fawns are born in late May and the first and second weeks of June, according to Vermont deer biologist Nick Fortin.
Fortin says it is best to keep your distance because the fawn's mother is almost always nearby. When people see a small fawn alone, they often mistakenly assume it is helpless, lost or needing to be rescued.
Fawns do not attempt to evade predators during their first few weeks, instead relying on camouflage and stillness to remain undetected. During these times, fawns learn critical survival skills from their mothers. Bringing a fawn into a human environment results in separation from its mother, and it usually results in a sad ending for the animal.
Fortin encourages people to resist the urge to assist wildlife in ways that may be harmful, and he offered these informational tips:
• Deer and moose nurse their young at different times during the day, and often leave their young alone for long periods of time. These animals are not lost. Their mother knows where they are and will return.
• Deer normally will not feed or care for their young when people are close by.
• Deer fawns will imprint on humans and lose their natural fear of people, which can be essential to their survival.
• Keep domestic pets indoors, leashed or fenced in. Dogs often will kill fawns and other baby animals.
For the safety of all wildlife, taking a wild animal into captivity is illegal in Vermont.
"It's n the best interest of Vermonters and the wildlife that live here, for all of us to maintain a respectful distance and help keep wildlife wild," added Fortin.
Hunter education instructor training course offered
The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is offering a New Instructor Training Course for people interested in volunteering to teach Hunter Education, Trapper Education, or Bowhunter Education courses in Vermont.
The training will take place June 25 at the Randolph Fish & Game Club in Randolph, Vt.
Policies and procedures, field techniques, and teaching methods will all be covered in order to give instructors the tools to teach future Vermont hunters how to have a safe and enjoyable experience.
"The skills and ethics that our instructors impart to their students will serve them for a lifetime," said Nicole Meier with Vermont Fish & Wildlife's hunter education program. "There is no better way for a hunter to give back to the outdoors than by instructing the next generation of hunters."
All applicants who pass the training are required to pass a background check with a warden and apprentice teach with a Chief Instructor before they can teach on their own. Upon completion, they will receive their full state of Vermont Hunter Education Instructor certification.
"Our hunter education instructors are all volunteers, donating their time to pass on a cherished Vermont tradition," said Meier. "The hours our instructors put in will leverage federal dollars that allow the Hunter Education Program to function. Summer is a great time to take this training, as there will be plenty of courses to help out with in the fall."
Those planning to attend should sign up online at www.tinyurl.com/nitjune2016 or call 802-828-1193 at least one week prior to the course date.
Reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities are available upon request. Please include a description of the accommodation you will need. Individuals making such requests must include their contact information. Requests should be made as early as possible. For example an interpreter must be requested at least two weeks in advance, if possible. Please send an e-mail to email@example.com or call the office staff at 802-828-1193 (voice) or 1-800-253-0191 (TTY).
Anglers reminded of lake sturgeon protection and state law
The Department is reminding anglers of the state regulation applying to lake sturgeon, as well as the need to help protect the endangered species through responsible angling practices and by reporting catch information to the Department.
"Lake sturgeon, which are listed as an endangered species by the State of Vermont, are fully protected and all sturgeon caught by anglers need to be released immediately," said Chet MacKenzie, fisheries biologist with Vermont Fish & Wildlife. "Harvesting a lake sturgeon would result in the loss of an angler's fish and wildlife licenses in Vermont and most other states for up to three years. It would also come with a $2,000 fee, paid as restitution to the state's fish and wildlife fund, as well as a $722 fine for the offense itself."
MacKenzie also encouraged anglers to help with the Lake Champlain sturgeon restoration effort by minimizing injuries to any accidentally caught sturgeon.
"If by chance an angler catches a sturgeon, we ask that they leave the sturgeon in the water as much as possible and remove the hook if the fish is hooked in the mouth, but cut the line and leave the hook in place if the hook is swallowed," said MacKenzie. "If possible, sturgeon should not be removed from the water. Anglers can also help by choosing to change fishing locations or using a different bait in the event that they catch multiple sturgeon in a particular area."
Vermont Fish & Wildlife urges anglers to help population recovery efforts by reporting any sturgeon they catch to the Department at 802-878-1564, or by contacting their local fish and game warden or district office. Information obtained about sturgeon catches can be valuable to the Department's sampling efforts and to monitoring the trend in sturgeon abundance over time.
Anglers and members of the public are also asked to report illegal sturgeon harvest to law enforcement immediately by calling their local warden, a state police dispatch center or Operation Game Thief at 1-800-752-5378.
Lake sturgeon, which in Vermont are only found in Lake Champlain and the lower sections of the Winooski, Lamoille and Missisquoi rivers and Otter Creek, are a unique, ancient form of fish that were first given complete protection by law in 1967. Lake Champlain has the only lake sturgeon population in New England.
The fish were historically more common in Lake Champlain, but declined rapidly in the 20th century due to over fishing and loss of spawning and nursery habitat caused by the construction of dams. Adult sturgeon are typically three to five feet long and weigh up to 80 pounds. The largest on record in North America weighed over 300 pounds, and the oldest was 154 years old.
To learn more about Vermont's fisheries programs, fishing regulations, or to purchase a fishing license, visit www.vtfishandwildlife.com.
Vermont Fish & Wildlife to stock over 750,000 fish in 2016
Annual fish stocking work is underway and the Department plans to stock over 750,000 fish into Vermont waters in the coming weeks.
Exactly 768,500 trout and salmon will be stocked, including nearly 300,000 that will be catchable-sized fish, as well as almost 20,000 trophy trout.
"The goal of our fish culture and stocking program is to maintain and restore fisheries, while also increasing fishing opportunities for anglers," said Jeremy Whalen, fish culture specialist with Vermont Fish & Wildlife. "Cultured fish are central to supporting local fisheries and promoting the sport of fishing in Vermont."
Vermont has a wealth of rivers, lakes and ponds that support naturally reproducing trout populations, including everything from small upland streams and beaver ponds that hold abundant wild brook trout, to bigger rivers which host wild brown and rainbow trout, and large cold water lakes with wild lake trout.
However, not all waters are able to support wild trout populations.
"Where habitat conditions have limited the ability of a waterbody to sustain wild trout, hatchery raised fish can be used to support popular fisheries in select waters," said Rich Kirn, fisheries biologist with Vermont Fish & Wildlife. "As we select stocking locations, trout species and densities, careful consideration is given to the existing fish community, angler use and public access to ensure we are using cultured fish effectively while also limiting competition with wild trout populations."
One popular component of the stocking program is the trophy trout initiative, which was fully restored in 2015 with the reestablishment of the trophy brook trout program.
"We'll be stocking 19,600 large, two-year-old trout across Vermont, and anglers will have the opportunity to fish over 34 miles of rivers and 28 lakes and ponds that are designated as trophy water," said Whalen. "This means excellent fishing opportunities and an even better chance for anglers to catch the fish of a lifetime."
The following streams will be stocked with trophy trout:
• Black River – Cavendish /Weathersfield
• East Creek – Rutland
• Otter Creek – Danby / Mt. Tabor
• Walloomsac River – Bennington
• Winooski River – Waterbury / Duxbury
• Lamoille River – Fairfax
• Mississquoi River – Enosburg
• Passumpsic River – St. Johnsbury
In Bennington County, the following lakes and ponds have been stocked with trophy trout
• Adams Reservoir – Woodford
• Searsburg Reservoir – Searsburg
• Lake Shaftsbury – Shaftsbury
• Lake Paran – Bennington / Shaftsbury
In addition to the trophy trout, over 271,000 yearling landlocked Atlantic salmon, brook, brown, rainbow and lake trout, as well as steelhead rainbow trout, will be stocked into Vermont streams, lakes and ponds other than Lake Champlain.
Lake Champlain is scheduled to be stocked with over 413,000 landlocked Atlantic salmon, steelhead rainbow trout, brown trout and lake trout – including fry and fingerlings.
"Both stocked and wild trout are critical pieces of our fisheries management plan, and play an important role in providing quality recreational experiences to anglers of all ages and abilities throughout Vermont," said Whalen. "They're also a key economic driver, contributing to the roughly $130 million in angler expenditures in Vermont each year."
For a complete 2016 stocking schedule, to purchase a fishing license or for more information on fishing in Vermont, visit www.vtfishandwildlife.com.