Consider delayed mowing to conserve grassland birds
Summer in Vermont is greatly enriched by the state's many grassland birds, from bobolinks flushing up from a grassy field to the beautiful song of an eastern meadowlark. But many of these species are in decline due to the loss of appropriate grassland habitat.
The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department and Vermont Audubon are encouraging landowners to help promote these beloved species and give these birds a chance to complete their nesting season simply by altering the times of year that they mow large fields.
Bobolinks build nests from May through July among the grasses and wildflowers of fields and meadows. When bobolinks are present, other grassland bird species such as savannah sparrows and vesper sparrows may also be nesting among the grasses. Deer fawns, wild turkey chicks, and other animals take refuge in the grass, and are also at risk by mowing too early.
"People maintain large fields and meadows in Vermont for a variety of reasons, from commercial hayfields and grazing pastures, to simple aesthetic beauty," said John Buck, biologist for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. "Mowing is the most common means of maintaining the grasses but if mowed too soon in the summer, many grassland bird species will lose their nest and any hatchlings."
According to Buck, landowners who mow their fields for aesthetic reasons can maintain these fields and accommodate the nesting birds simply by cutting later in the summer. He recommends an August 1 start date.
For farmers who maintain commercial hayfields and grazing pastures, Audubon Vermont coordinates the Bobolink Project in association with the University of Vermont and several other partners. They provide funding and resources to farmers who agreed to delay mowing or grazing fields until the first week in August to protect bobolinks and other nesting grassland birds. This year, they worked with 16 farmers to protect over 500 acres of grassland habitat.
Muzzleloader antlerless deer permit applications available
Vermont's muzzleloader season antlerless deer hunting permit applications are now available on Vermont Fish & Wildlife's website (www.vtfishandwildlife.com). A quick-link to the information and online applications is on the home page. Applying online automatically enters you to win one of ten $50 Cabela's gift cards.
The Fish and Wildlife Board met on May 25 and set antlerless deer hunting rules for the fall deer hunting seasons.
Hunting for antlerless deer will be statewide for the October 1-28 and December 3-11 archery season. Last year, hunters took 2,618 antlerless deer during the archery season.
One deer of either sex would be allowed for youths during the November 5-6 youth weekend hunt. Youths took 761 antlerless deer during the 2015 youth weekend hunt.
The December 3-11 muzzleloader season would have 18,950 antlerless permits distributed in 16 of Vermont's 21 WMUs, which is estimated to result in 2,700 antlerless deer being taken.
Landowners who post their land may not apply for a muzzleloader landowner antlerless deer permit.
"The number of muzzleloader season antlerless deer permits was increased to account for the expected increase in the deer population following the exceptionally mild winter of 2016," said Nick Fortin, deer project leader for the Fish & Wildlife Department. "The recommendation is intended to allow moderate population growth in most of the state while stabilizing or reducing deer densities in a few areas."
"We expect the statewide deer population to be 140,000 to 145,000 prior to the start of the 2016 deer seasons," said Fortin.
The deadline to apply for a muzzleloader antlerless deer permit is August 26.
Robert Currier is Vermont's warden of the year
Robert Currier of Colchester is Vermont's State Game Warden of the Year. A state game warden since 2011, Currier received the award in recognition of his excellent service from Governor Peter Shumlin on May 31 Montpelier.
"I want to thank Robert for his outstanding performance in protecting Vermont's fish and wildlife resources and serving the people of Vermont," said Governor Shumlin. He added that Warden Currier was chosen for "his professionalism, his strong work ethic and willingness to assist other law enforcement agencies."
Lt. Curtis Smiley, Currier's supervisor, also commended him for his ability to conduct thorough investigations of hunting and fishing violations. "Warden Currier exceeds all expectations by apprehending a high volume of violators. Despite his effectiveness as a warden, he remains highly respected as a member of the sporting community. The public often acknowledges his strong work ethic and fair application of the law," said Smiley.
"Our warden force provides a broad range of services that go above and beyond protecting fish and wildlife," said Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter. "In Warden Currier's case, his peers chose him as Warden of the Year because he exemplifies a high standard that others strive to reach."
Warden Currier's district includes the towns of South Hero, Milton, Colchester, Winooski, Burlington, South Burlington, Westford, Essex, Underhill, and Jericho.
Shikar-Safari Club International, a private wildlife conservation group, sponsors a warden of the year award in each state and Canadian province to help promote and encourage the enforcement of wildlife conservation laws. Currier received a colorful framed certificate honoring his selection as Vermont's State Game Warden of the Year, provided by Shikar-Safari Club International.
F&W law signing coincides with new education center dedication at Buck Lake Conservation Camp
Governor Peter Shumlin signed legislation that includes several important changes for Vermont's fish and wildlife resources on May 28, and helped dedicate a new education center for the Green Mountain Conservation Camp at Buck Lake.
The "Fish and Wildlife Omnibus Bill," H.570, will enable the Agency of Natural Resources to designate and protect critical habitat for threatened and endangered species. The bill also provides more appropriate penalties for frequent violators of big game laws, it clarifies and improves laws dealing with commercial fishing and private stocking of public waters, among other changes to fish and wildlife laws.
"H.570 builds on the already strong record Vermont has for conservation of wildlife and fish species," said Governor Shumlin. "This legislation adds stronger teeth to our enforcement of big game laws and increases our ability to restore species of greatest conservation need."
"It's fitting, that we should be celebrating its signing in this new facility that will educate the next generation of Vermonters on the importance of valuing natural resources just as the Green Mountain Conservation Camps have for the previous fifty years," added Governor Shumlin.
Legislators and representatives of fish and wildlife conservation organizations, along with Agency of Natural Resources and Fish and Wildlife staff and camp alumni, were on hand for the ceremony.
Grand Isle Family Fishing Festival set for June 11
The 16th annual Grand Isle Family Fishing Festival will be held on Saturday, June 11 and organizers are planning for an exciting day of fishing fun and trophy catches.
"The Grand Isle Family Fishing Festival is a great way for kids and families to get outside, spend time together and enjoy the great sport of fishing in a fun and educational setting," said Tom Chairvolotti, fish culture production supervisor with Vermont Fish & Wildlife. "It's also the perfect opportunity for newcomers to learn the basics of fishing and have a chance to catch some really nice fish."
Designed for young anglers and families, the festival offers basic fishing instruction and the opportunity for kids to catch big trout in the hatchery pond. While the event as a whole is for families, the hatchery pond will only be open to fishing for kids. No prior fishing experience is needed and Vermont Fish & Wildlife will be supplying fishing rods, reels and bait for use by participants.
The festival will run from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Ed Weed Fish Culture Station at 14 Bell Hill Road in Grand Isle. Registration will close at 2:00 p.m., but the hatchery pond will remain open to fishing until 3:00 p.m.
Anyone with questions about the festival can contact Chairvolotti at 802-372-3171.
In addition to the Grand Isle Family Fishing Festival, Vermont's Summer Free Fishing Day is also on June 11, as is the opening day of the regular Vermont bass fishing season.
Vermont's Free Summer Fishing Day gives both resident and nonresident anglers the opportunity to go fishing in Vermont for the day without a license.
Vermont's regular bass season, which opens each year on the second Saturday in June and extends through the last day of November, features some of the hottest bass fishing action anywhere in the northeast.
To learn more about the Grand Isle Family Fishing Festival, fishing in Vermont, or to purchase a fishing license, visit www.vtfishandwildlife.com/fish.