The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department is responsible for the conservation of
wildlife in its broadest sense. The department's mission encompasses everything
from mammals and birds to fish and reptiles to insects and plants. The big game
species listed below-white-tailed deer, black bear, wild turkey and moose-are all
species that are hunted in Vermont. Each of these species play important biological
and social roles in Vermont's wild communities.
over this range is estimated to be 25 million. In Vermont, deer are found in
the mountains, river valleys, agricultural lands, and even in backyard suburbs.
White-tailed deer are one of the most studied and talked about species in the
state. The importance Vermonters place on deer is evident in looking at the state
seal. It is a deer, not an eagle or other mythical creature that sits atop the
White-tailed deer are one of the four species of the North American Deer
family. Elk, mule deer and moose are the other three. White-tails are the
most numerous and widely distributed member of the deer family. They live
in a wide variety of habitats, from southern Canada to Central America.
Deer are completely vegetarian. They eat a variety of leaves, twigs, and
nuts. In Vermont, a deer's diet consists of maple, ash, birch twigs and leaves.
Small plants, grasses, and fruit and nuts such as apples, acorns, and beech
nuts also are important foods. In order to get the nutrition from such a wide
variety of food that is hard to digest, a deer has four stomachs-just like a
cow. This helps deer digest food that a human couldn't possibly digest.
White-tails are very adaptable and occupy a wide range of habitat types.
In Vermont, deer are found statewide. Known as a species that prefers forest
"edge," they occur in highest numbers in habitats that feature a blend of
large woodlots and agricultural openings. Because they are so adaptable, they
also are found in more limited numbers in the expansive forests of the Green
Mountains and the Northeast Kingdom.
In its northern range, deer winter areas or "deer yards" are a critically
important habitat type for deer to survive through the cold winter. Only 7-8%
of Vermont's forests make up such wintering areas. An important part of a deer
yard is the evergreen trees that catch the snow in their branches, thus reducing
snow depth underneath. The trees also provide thermal cover that gives the deer
protection from the wind. Deer may move 10 to 15 miles to go to a yard and stay
in the protection of the area all winter.
Don't Feed Deer
During Vermont's long, cold winter, it may seem like the deer need human help to survive but this is not the case,
it is illegal to feed deer in the state of Vermont for several key reasons:
Deer and People in Vermont
- Increased risk of disease transmission. Deer concentrated at feeding sites
are more likely to contract diseases such as chronic wasting disease (CWD), tuberculosis, salmonella, and
brucellosis. Because of the nose to nose contact deer have at feeding locations,
these deadly diseases are easily passed from one deer to another.
- Smallest deer get pushed away. Competition for food around the feeding
sites can be fierce. The smallest and weakest deer, usually fawns, get pushed
to the end of the feeding line. Wild, dispersed deer rarely display this behavior,
and allow the younger deer an opportunity to eat.
- Habitat destruction. Deer continue to feed on natural foods like trees
and shrubs even while being artificially fed. Because of the intense concentration
of deer in a feeding area, the surrounding trees and shrubs become permanently
deformed or destroyed.
- Deer lose their natural wildness. Deer get used to being around humans. This
usually results in deer becoming pests by destroying neighborhood gardens and
shrubbery. People often become possessive of "their" deer, leading to difficult
decisions regarding over-population.
- High risk of attack by dogs. As deer concentrate around feeding sites they
become increasingly vulnerable to attack by neighborhood pets. Their loss of
wildness aids in this vulnerability. Wild predators, such as coyotes, are often
drawn to the feeding sites, too.
- Feeding deer is expensive. A deer's digestive system is sensitive to sudden
changes in diet. Commercially blended foods should be provided for the entire
four-month wintering period. This will average about $55 per deer. Because one
deer always leads to many more, hundreds of dollars each month can be spent.
Controlling deer numbers is important because an over-abundance of deer can cause
habitat damage due to over browsing of natural forest foods; can cause damage
to crops; and pose a danger on Vermont highways from deer-vehicle collisions.
Part of balancing the needs of deer and the needs of people is the role of regulated
hunting. Deer hunting in Vermont is a 100-year tradition. It is an enduring element
in the cultural heritage of Vermont. It is a family activity (deer camps) and
community activity (game suppers at fire houses and churches). Through regulated
deer hunting seasons in the fall of each year, deer numbers are managed. The public
harvests more than 800-thousand pounds of venison each year.
Many Vermonters also enjoy viewing and photographing deer as they go on walks
or rides throughout the state.
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|Whether they are alone in the forest, viewed through
a chance sighting, or hunted in the timeless tradition of obtaining food
from the land, Vermont's bears provide a vital connection with our natural
and wild heritage.
Eastern black bears require forests for survival, but not just any wooded
area will do. Bears need stands of oak and beech trees that produce nuts
for food in summer and fall. Bears also need wetland forest habitat, where
they get food in spring. Because bears use different habitats seasonally,
they must also have a way to move among them. Bears travel through "corridors"
to move across roads or through developed areas from one habitat area
Bears are large animals, and they require large, unbroken areas of habitat.
Through careful management of habitat, today's Vermont black bear population is
robust. But, bears face continuing pressures on their habitats from things like
highways and unrestricted development. When these forces break up bear habitat
and travel corridors, bears face the challenge of "fragmentation." Habitat
fragmentation causes many problems for bears. It restricts them from moving
about their home ranges. It reduces their supply of natural food. It increases
the chance of collisions with automobiles. Perhaps worst, it cause them to come
in more frequent contact with people. If we are able to keep our bear population
healthy, we must find ways to prevent and minimize fragmentation of their
When Bears and People Interact
People love to see the Eastern Black Bear in its natural surroundings. But
when bears venture into human territory, problems can occur. Often, bears pay
the price. Bears can get all the food they need from the forests, but they are
opportunists. This means they eat whatever food they can find most easily. When
a chance for easy food presents itself, bears take advantage of it. People often
encourage bears to come out of the forest by providing food without realizing
it. Once bears become used to these food sources and come into frequent human
contact, people sometimes call them "nuisance bears." But, they are just being
bears! Some of the most common sources of food provided by people that attract
bears are: pet food, bird feeders, barbecue grills, garbage, household trash
containers, open dumpsters, and campsites with accessible food and food
Here's what you can do to keep from attracting bears out of their forest
habitat. Never feed bears, deliberately or accidentally. Feed your pets indoors.
Feed birds from December to March only. Store trash in a secure place-trash cans
alone are not enough! People need to remember that bears are wild animals. Everyone
is better off when bears stay in their natural habitat-the forest.
Bears-Many Things to Many People
Vermonters value bears for many reasons. Some hope to view a bear while
hiking. Others never need to see one-just knowing that bears roam the woods
improves the quality of their lives! Still others see bears as a traditional
food source, just as people have for thousands of years. These people find that
bear hunting is a thread that binds them to the rich fabric of Vermont's past.
Every fall, Vermont has a carefully regulated hunting season for bears. Biologists
and wardens use research, laws, and regulations to ensure that hunting will help
maintain a healthy bear population.
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|Wild turkeys represent one of Vermont's greatest conservation success stories. By the mid-1800s turkey had been extirpated in Vermont by unregulated hunting and intensive forest clearing, which destroyed turkey habitat. In 1969 the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department obtained 17 wild turkeys from southwestern New York and released them in Pawlet. The following year, 14 more wild turkeys were released in Hubbardton. With constant monitoring and management by the department, the population has expanded today to approximately 45,000 to 50,000 birds.
Wild Turkey Brood Survey
Get involved in the department's wild turkey brood survey by recording your wild turkey sightings during August. Learn more...
The reproductive cycle for the wild turkey begins in the spring. As the days get
longer and warmer, Toms (male turkeys) can be heard gobbling and can occasionally be
seen strutting to attract hens. Turkeys are polygamous, meaning they mate with multiple
partners, and most of the breeding is done by a relatively few dominant gobblers. The
peak of turkey breeding in Vermont occurs in mid-April. The nest is a slight depression
in the forest litter situated near vegetation which provides concealment. Turkey eggs
are larger than chicken eggs and are tan with brown flecks. An average clutch is ten
to fifteen eggs laid over a twelve to eighteen day period. Incubation takes twenty-eight
days. The hatching occurs during the end of May to the first of June.
The spring period is when the birds are in their best condition as they put on
weight for the coming breeding season. Adult gobblers may range from sixteen to
twenty-five pounds, with juveniles (yearlings) weighing around twelve to fifteen
pounds. Hens are slightly smaller, with the adults at nine to fourteen pounds and
juveniles ranging seven to ten pounds.
Vermont is on the northern edge of wild turkey range in America. Winter weather
conditions and habitat are the big limiting factors. Deep snow is one serious problem
for the birds, and a shortage of mast-producing trees is another. Consequently, Vermont
wild turkeys often stay in their roost trees during the worst weather conditions.
Food for the wild turkey varies widely with the seasons. During spring and summer,
grasses and the high protein of insects are important food sources. During the first
several weeks of life, poults (young turkeys) will subsist solely on insects. By late
summer and fall, fruits and nuts are their most favored foods. Beechnuts, hophornbean
seeds and acorns are especially favored by turkeys. Food becomes scarce when snow begins
to accumulate. Turkeys are basically ground feeders and when a poor nut crop is followed
by deep snow, winter mortality is likely to occur. Under snow covered conditions, birds
must rely on food which falls on top of the snow, herbaceous vegetation protruding
through the snow, or insects, grasses, fleshy root tubers and seeds they can find in
spring seeps or on patches of bare ground.
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The moose is the world's largest member of the deer family. Moose are generally
associated with northern forests in North America, Europe, and Russia. Moose are
long-legged and heavy bodied with a drooping nose, a "bell" or dewlap under the
chin, and a small tail. Their color ranges from golden brown to almost black,
depending upon the season and the age of the animal. The hair of newborn calves
is generally red-brown fading to a lighter rust color within a few weeks. Newborn
calves weigh 28 to 35 pounds and within five months grow to more than 300 pounds.
Males in prime condition weigh from 1,200 to 1,600 pounds. Adult females weigh 800
to 1,300 pounds. Only the bulls have antlers. In the wild, moose rarely live more
than 16 years.
Moose breed in the fall with the peak of the "rut" activities coming in late
September and early October. Adult males joust during the rut by bringing their
antlers together and pushing. Serious battles are rare. The winner usually mates
with the female. By late October, adult males have exhausted their summer accumulation
of fat and their desire for female company. Once again they begin feeding. Antlers
are shed as early as November, but mostly in December and January.
Cow moose generally breed at 28 months, though some may breed as young as 16
months. Calves are born any time from mid-May to early June after a gestation
period of about 230 days. Cows give birth to twins 15 to 75 percent of the time
and triplets may occur once in every thousand births. A cow moose defends her
newborn calf vigorously. The maternal bond is generally maintained until calves
are 12 months old at which time the mother aggressively chases her offspring from
the immediate area just before she gives birth.
During summer, moose prefer to feed in or near clearings, burns or shoreline
areas where they browse on tender leaves, twigs and bark of deciduous trees, and
semi-aquatic and aquatic vegetation. They also graze on grasses, lichens, mosses,
mushrooms, and herbaceous plants. Winter diet is restricted to conifer and hardwood
Moose are generally associated with the northern forests in North America,
Europe and Russia. In Vermont, moose are found in greatest numbers in the Northeast
Kingdom and Green Mountain regions. Moose prefer wetland areas in the summer.
Preferred habitat outside of summer are stands of balsam fir, white birch and aspen,
interspersed with semi-open areas and swamps or lakes that offer cover and aquatic
plants for food. The home range for a moose is a radius of two to 10 miles, if
adequate year-round food is available.
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Big Game Documents and Harvest Reports
Reports and Documents
Hunting and Trapping Documents
Biggame Harvest Reports
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