Caution urged on ice

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is reminding those going out on the ice to use caution, particularly given recent warm temperatures and rain.

Vermont game wardens are reporting that ice conditions are a concern on several Vermont lakes, ponds and rivers, and it is possible that ice may remain thick, but may have become structurally weak and be melting from underneath as well as at the surface.

• Leave information about your plans with someone -- where you intend to fish and when you expect to return.

• Cautious foot travel only (no motorized vehicles) is safest under current conditions.

• Ice varies in thickness and condition. Always carry an ice spud or chisel to check ice as you proceed.

• Wear a personal flotation device and don't fish alone.

• Be extremely cautious where ice will be most thin -- near river mouths, points of land, bridges, islands, and over reefs and springs.

• Avoid going onto the ice if it has melted away from the shore. This indicates melting is underway, and ice can shift position as wind direction changes.

• Waves from open water can quickly break up large areas of ice. If you can see open water in the lake and the wind picks up, get off!

• Bring your fully charged cell phone with you.

• Carry a set of hand spikes to help work your way onto the surface of the ice if you go through. Holding one in each hand, you can alternately punch them into the ice and pull yourself up and out.


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• Carry a safety line that can be thrown to someone who has gone through the ice.

"With the heavy rain and unseasonably warm weather, some areas of the state are seeing thinner and less predictable ice than we would expect this time of year," said Col. Jason Batchelder, chief game warden. "We would encourage all recreationists to take care out on the ice."

Governor appoints three new Fish & Wildlife Board members

Governor Peter Shumlin has appointed three new members to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board from Windsor, Bennington and Addison counties.

Tim Biebel has been appointed from Windsor County to replace Steven Adams. David Fielding has been appointed from Bennington County to replace Ron Wilcox. And Patrick Berry has been appointed from Addison County to replace Gary Gibbs.

The fourteen-member Fish and Wildlife Board is a group of Vermont citizens that enact fish and wildlife regulations for hunting, fishing, and trapping. Members serve for six-year terms.

"I appreciate the invaluable role that the Fish and Wildlife Board plays in the conservation of our natural resources in Vermont," said Governor Shumlin. "The board is made up of well-informed citizen-conservationists who thoughtfully represent the perspective of Vermont's hunters, anglers, trappers and wildlife watchers."

Tim Biebel is a general contractor and Vermont native who has been hunting since he was seven years old. He has hunted mule deer, antelope, and even caribou, but still prefers hunting white-tailed deer in Vermont. His love of deer hunting is evident on his colorful and popular hunting blog, the4pointer.com, on which he shares stories and photos of deer hunting in Vermont. He lives in Windsor with his wife and four-year-old son.

David Fielding, who works in accounting and finance, is an avid big game hunter and angler. He can often be found fishing his local streams such as the Mettawee and Batten Kill. Fielding enjoys hunting deer in Vermont with bow, rifle, and muzzleloader, and hunting big game across North America. He is a native Vermonter and Vietnam veteran who lives in Manchester.

"Tim and David both share a love of the outdoors and they bring a diversity of age and experiences to the Board," said Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter. "Tim represents the new generation of hunters and anglers who will carry on these important traditions in Vermont, while Dave brings a rich history of public service, such as acting as treasurer for the town of Manchester for 35 years."

Patrick Berry served as commissioner of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department from 2011 to 2014. Now employed as the vice president for philanthropy at the Vermont Community Foundation, Berry spends his free time waterfowl, turkey, and upland bird hunting with his dogs, as well as fishing on Lake Champlain and on local streams. He lives in Middlebury with his wife and two sons.

"Patrick continues to be an avid conservationist and outdoorsman since stepping down as commissioner," said Porter. "He has a strong working relationship with Vermont's sporting community and our conservation partners. I look forward to working with him in his new role as a member of the Board."

Fish & Wildlife Board sets permit numbers for 2016 moose hunt

A total of 135 regular firearms moose season permits and 25 archery moose season permits would be issued for Vermont's 2016 October moose hunt under a proposed regulation approved by the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board at their February 24 monthly meeting in Montpelier.

The board voted on a proposal by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department to allocate permits in 16 of the state's 21 Wildlife Management Units (WMUs). The proposed permit numbers must be voted on at one more board meeting in April.

The number of permits would be reduced from 2015 in ten WMUs, and permits would be for bulls-only in all WMUs except B, C and E1 units.

The 160 permits proposed by the department represent a 40 percent decrease from the number of permits approved last year. Under the proposal, hunters are expected to harvest close to 70 moose.

"We recommended a reduction in permit numbers and a continuation of bulls-only permits in most of the units this year based on biological data we collected on Vermont's moose, and our population estimates indicating moose densities remain below management goals in many areas," said biologist Cedric Alexander, Vermont's moose project leader. "The intent of the proposal to allow slow population growth in most of Vermont."

Alexander estimates Vermont has 2,050 moose statewide with the greatest concentration in the Northeast Kingdom.

"We continue to take a very conservative approach given recent regional and national trends of moose populations and health," added Alexander. "Moose biologists from the southern tier of moose range across North America are increasingly concerned about the effects of warming temperatures on moose health. Moose can easily become stressed by warmer weather causing them to feed less and early spring snow melt that results in higher winter tick loads the following year."

Vermont's archery-only moose season is scheduled for October 1-7. The regular moose season is October 15-20.

Moose hunting permit lottery applications, $10 for residents and $25 for nonresidents, will be available on Vermont Fish & Wildlife's website (www.vtfishandwildlife.com) in early-April.

Two lotteries will be held, one for the regular hunting season and one for the archery season. Winners of either lottery must purchase resident hunting permits for $100 or nonresident hunting permits for $350. Hunters also will have the option to bid on five moose hunting permits in an auction to be announced later.

You can review the proposed 2016 moose hunt by going to the Fish & Wildlife website (www.vtfishandwildlife.com). Comments on the proposal can be sent to ANR.FWPublicComment@Vermont.Gov.

Three Fish and Wildlife Board public hearings also are being held to provide an opportunity for comment on the proposed moose season. The hearings will be held from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. at the following locations:

• March 20, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Kehoe Conservation Camp, 636 Point of Pines Rd., Castleton

• March 23, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Lake Region Union High School, 317 Lake Region Rd., Orleans.

• March 26, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Montpelier High School, 5 High School Drive, Montpelier

Vermont Trout Unlimited launches sixth annual Fly Fishing Summer Camp for teens

Vermont Trout Unlimited announces year six of their fly fishing camp for Vermont teens ages 13 to 16. Teens interested in either learning the art of fly-fishing or improving their basic skill level along side some of Vermont's most accomplished fly anglers, are invited to apply. The 2016 camp is scheduled for Sunday June 19th through Thursday June 23rd at Jackson's Lodge in Canaan, Vermont.

Louis Porter, Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife Commissioner supports TU's educational efforts. "TU's Fly Fishing Camp for Teens is an incredible program dedicated to educating our next generation of fly fishermen and women to help ensure that our precious cold water fisheries here in Vermont will be taken care of well into the future."

Participants in the five day, four night comprehensive program will learn and practice casting, basic fly tying, knot craft, insect identification and imitation (entomology), fish identification and behavior (ichthyology) safe wading techniques, angling ethics and coldwater conservation. Campers will hone their skills on local lakes, ponds and streams, including the Connecticut River.

Our host, Jackson's Lodge, (www.JacksonsLodgeVT.net) is located in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom on Wallace Pond and is a short five-minute drive from the Connecticut River.

Prospective campers are encouraged to apply no later than April 15, 2016 to secure a spot for this year's program. The cost for the 5-day camp is $450. Scholarships may be available on an "as-needed" basis.

Trout Unlimited is a non-profit organization that has dedicated over 50 years to the conservation, protection and restoration of North America's cold-water fisheries and watersheds.

For complete information about the TU Fly Fishing Camp, an application form, and many videos of the camp, go to www.vermonttroutcamp.com or e-mail Kurt Budliger, camp director, at vermonttroutcamp@gmail.com, or call Kurt at 802-223-4022.

Conservation camp applications are available

If you are 12 to 14 years old and want to learn about Vermont's wildlife and gain outdoor skills, consider attending one of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department's Green Mountain Conservation Camps next summer.

The one-week camp program is held at two locations -- Lake Bomoseen in Castleton and Buck Lake in Woodbury. Campers participate in hands-on learning experiences about fish and wildlife conservation, ecology, forestry, orienteering, safe firearm and archery techniques, swimming, canoeing, fishing and more in an attractive outdoor setting. Natural resource professionals come to the camp during the week to share information on their programs and take campers out for field activities.

"Whether kids come alone or with friends, they are guaranteed to meet new people and form new bonds while experiencing Vermont's natural resources to the fullest," said Fish & Wildlife Education Coordinator Alison Thomas. "An important take-away message and common theme during the week is that conserving and managing habitat will help ensure Vermont will have fish and wildlife in the future."

Conservation Camps open June 19 and continue until August 19. Tuition is $250 for the week, including food, lodging and equipment. Please check the Fish & Wildlife website (www.vtfishandwildlife.com) for information, including scholarship availability. A printable application also is available on the website.

Whether you register online or on paper, it is important to read the information section before the application. It contains policy, refund, cancellation and billing information that you need to know.

For more information about Green Mountain Conservation Camps contact: fwgmcc@vermont.gov or call 802-828-1460.

Vermont's conservation camp program is unique because it is sponsored and directed by Fish & Wildlife professionals -- the same people who manage Vermont's fish and wildlife resources. Working biologists, foresters, game wardens, and conservation educators teach young people about Vermont's forests, wetlands and wildlife. The program's greatest strength is connecting young people to the outdoors. The camp program is sponsored in part through a grant from the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program.

Vermont Fish & Wildlife urges Vermonters to remember Nongame Wildlife Fund Tax checkoff

Vermonters with an interest in conserving wildlife should consider making a donation to the Nongame Wildlife Fund on line 29a of their state income tax form this tax season. The fund helps to conserve some of Vermont's most threatened wildlife species such as bald eagles, lynx, and turtles, in addition to helping many of the state's imperiled pollinators such as butterflies and bees.

Past donations to the Nongame Wildlife Fund have helped recover peregrine falcons, osprey, and loons in Vermont. They have also helped recovery efforts for Vermont's bat species that were recently hit with a devastating fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome.

The donations are leveraged by a match from a federal grant, meaning that a $50 donation brings up to $150 to wildlife conservation in Vermont.

"The Nongame Wildlife Fund has been responsible for some of the great conservation success stories in Vermont," said biologist Steve Parren, who manages nongame wildlife projects for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. "Thanks to the generous donations of thousands of Vermonters, we are working to restore many of the iconic species of our Green Mountain State."

Parren works on the recovery of Vermont's rare turtle species, including the state endangered spiny softshell turtle. He monitors and protects the turtle's nests, and each winter he raises dozens of baby turtles in his own living room before releasing them back into Lake Champlain in the spring.

"It's clear that Vermonters care deeply about wildlife," said John Buck, a state wildlife biologist who works to recover the state's endangered bird species. "These donations demonstrate that the people of our state share a strong commitment to conservation."

In 2015, Vermont added three bumble bee species to the state's endangered species list, amid nationwide concerns about the decline of pollinator species. Bees, moths, and butterflies are responsible for pollinating everything from farm crops to the trees in the forest, but many of these species are in decline lately due in part to the use of pesticides. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is working to protect pollinators with financial support from the Nongame Wildlife Fund.