Outdoors: News from Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department


Keep an eye out for turtles

It's springtime and Vermont's turtles on are on the move. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is asking for the public's help in keeping them safe. Female turtles are looking for places to deposit their eggs, sometimes choosing to lay along the shoulders of roads, which can end tragically.

"Turtles often cross roads as they search for a nest site," said Steve Parren, biologist for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. "They are a slow-moving animal in today's fast-paced world, so they have a tough time making it safely across the road. Turtles grow slowly and live a long time, so losing a mature breeding female is a huge loss to the turtle population."

Turtle nesting activity peaks from late May through June. At this time of year, drivers are urged to keep an eye out for turtles in the road, especially when driving near ponds and wetlands.

To decrease the number of turtles that are killed by vehicles, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department has been collecting data to identify stretches of road that are hotspots for wildlife migrations. They are working closely with VTrans, and with Jim Andrews from the Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas, among other partners.

"When you spot a turtle in the road, you may be able to help it across. First be sure you're in a safe spot to stop and get out of your car, as human safety comes first," said Andrews. "If you're going to move a turtle off the road, always move it in the direction it was traveling. They know where they're going."

According to Andrews, most turtles can simply be picked up and carried across the road. However, if the turtle has no colorful lines, spots, or other markings, it is probably a snapping turtle, so people should not get too close to the animal to avoid being bitten. Snapping turtle's necks are as long as their shell. Instead, people should push the turtle across the road with an object like a shovel or broom.

Andrews is also asking paddlers, boaters, and anglers to report turtle sightings throughout the state to the Vermont Reptile & Amphibian Atlas website at vtherpatlas.org. The reports help conservationists keep track of the status of these species in order to act if a species appears to be in decline.

"Sending in a report is quick and easy," said Andrews. "Just snap a photo or two of the turtle, and submit your observation via the website or email. We're constantly impressed with Vermonters' commitment to conservation and willingness to help us save turtles."

Observations can be submitted to the Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas online at vtherpatlas.org or to jandrews@middlebury.edu.

Respect and enjoy young wildlife from a distance

Watching wildlife is enjoyable, especially when young animals appear in the spring. But it's best to keep your distance. Picking up young wildlife can do more harm than good, according to the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. It's also against the law.

When people see young animals alone, they often mistakenly assume they are helpless or lost and need to be rescued. Picking up young wildlife often results in separation from their mothers and a sad ending for the animal.

Handling wildlife can also pose a threat to the people involved. Wild animals can transmit diseases such as rabies and parasites such as raccoon roundworm that can infect people.

Fish and Wildlife scientists encourage wildlife watchers to respect the behavior of animals in the spring and early summer and to resist the urge to pick them up or assist wildlife in ways that may be harmful. They offer these helpful tips:

• Deer and moose nurse their young at different times during the day, often leaving them alone for long periods of time. These animals are not lost. Their mother knows where they are and will return.

• Young birds on the ground may have left their nest, but their parents will still feed them.

• Even though they do not show symptoms, healthy-looking young raccoons, foxes, skunks, and bats also may also be carriers of the deadly rabies virus.

• Many wildlife species will not feed or care for their young when people are close by. Obey signs that restrict access to wildlife nesting areas, including hiking trails that may be temporarily closed.

• Keep domestic pets indoors, leashed or fenced in. Dogs and cats kill many baby animals each year.

• Avoid removing trees, shrubs and dead snags that may contain nests during the spring and summer.

For information about rabies and nuisance wildlife, call the Vermont

Rabies Hotline at 1-800-4RABIES (1-800-472-2437). If bitten or in direct contact with a raccoon, fox, skunk, or bat, or a domestic animal that has been in contact with one of these species, call the Vermont Department of Health at 1-800-640-4374.

For the safety of all wildlife, taking a wild animal into captivity is illegal.

Avoid tempting bears by removing food sources

People love to see a black bear in its natural surroundings, but when a bear ventures into human territory, problems can occur.

Vermont Fish & Wildlife wardens and biologists are receiving reports of hungry bears getting into trash containers as well as raiding bird feeders, bee hives and chicken houses.

"Human conflicts involving bears are increasing this spring," said Chief Game Warden Jason Batchelder. "Vermont's wardens are responding to events involving bears in search of easy calories. As with most wildlife conflicts, these can be easily avoided by taking steps to secure food sources and making them inaccessible to hungry bears."

"People sometimes unintentionally encourage bears to come out of the forest by providing food," says Vermont's bear biologist Forrest Hammond. "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! It is nearly impossible to relocate a nuisance bear. Unfortunately, they frequently have to be put down."

Some of the most common sources of food that attract bears are: bird feeders, barbecue grills, garbage, household trash containers, open dumpsters, pet food and campsites with accessible food and food wastes.

Purposely feeding a bear is not just bad for the bear, it's also illegal in Vermont.

Vermont law also states that residents must take reasonable measures to protect their property from bears before lethal force can be taken. Some of these measures include:

• Keep chickens and honeybees secure within an electric fence or other bear-proof enclosure.

• Never feed bears, deliberately or accidentally.

• Feed pets indoors.

• Do not feed birds April 1 through November 30. Bringing feeders in at night doesn't work, because of seed spilled on the ground.

• Store trash in a secure place. Trash cans alone are not bear-proof.

You can learn more about living with Vermont's black bears on the Vermont Fish & Wildlife website (www.vtfishandwildlife.com). Fish & Wildlife also asks that you use a form on their website to report any incidents you may have with Vermont bears.


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