Notes and news from the outdoors

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Clinic will cover ice fishing basics

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department will be hosting a free introductory course on ice fishing for walleye in mid-January at Lake Carmi.

The clinic, which is open to the public, will run from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 14 at Lake Carmi State Park in Enosburg Falls.

"The course is designed to cover the basics of ice fishing - ice safety, fishing regulations, drilling holes, rigging equipment - all of the fundamentals, but will focus on tactics and techniques specific to targeting walleye through the ice," said Corey Hart, Let's Go Fishing coordinator with Vermont Fish & Wildlife.

The clinic will be conducted by instructors from Vermont Fish & Wildlife's Let's Go Fishing Program and the Lake Champlain Walleye Association.

"We encourage anyone interested in ice fishing to participate," said Hart. "From folks looking to try ice fishing for the first time to more experienced anglers, the clinic will be a great time and an opportunity for participants to learn from instructors as well as fellow anglers. Ice fishing in Vermont is a fun, low-cost way to enjoy Vermont's great outdoors during the winter and walleye are a blast to catch."

All necessary equipment will be provided for the course, but participants may also bring their own tackle if desired. Participants are advised to dress warm and layer clothing in order to adjust to the conditions of the day.

Preregistration for the clinic is required and can be completed by calling 802-265-2279 or emailing letsgofishing@vermont.gov.

Public meeting on conserved lands

The Vermont departments of Fish & Wildlife, and Forests, Parks, & Recreation are holding an additional public meeting to discuss future management and use of a group of conserved lands in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. The comment period has also been extended to provide the public with additional opportunities to comment.

The meeting will discuss the proposed long-range management plan for Victory Basin Wildlife Management Area, Victory State Forest, and Darling State Park. The meeting will take place on Jan. 10 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Burke Mountain Room at Lyndon State College. This is a routine update of the management plan for these lands.

The draft plan calls for the continued management of these lands for a variety of recreational uses, habitat for plants and animals, and sustainable forest management. The plan calls for more intensive timber harvest in the wildlife management area to promote regeneration of spruce-fir forests for species such as deer, moose, gray jays, rusty blackbirds, and marten. There are no changes proposed to the lease agreement with Burke Mountain Resort.

"The Victory Basin region is a unique treasure in Vermont, with vast stretches of boreal forest and untamed lands that are reminiscent of areas usually found much farther north," said Doug Morin, a biologist for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. "Large areas of interconnected conserved lands with healthy forests and waters such as these are essential in Vermont. They form the foundation of the state's working landscape, providing areas for outdoor recreation, tourism, and sustainable forestry practices."

The meeting will provide an opportunity for members of the public to review the highlights of the draft long-range management plan and ask questions. For more information about the meeting or the planning process, or to comment on the draft plan before February 1, please contact Doug Morin at doug.morin@vermont.gov. The draft plan is available at vtfishandwildlife.com.

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. Please send an email to: Catherine.gjessing@vermont.gov or call the office staff at 802-828-1000 (voice), 1-800-253-0191 (TTY).

Wilmington man convicted for feeding bears

A Wilmington man was convicted in November for intentionally feeding bears.

James Burke, 60, pleaded no contest to two criminal counts of illegally feeding bears.

On Sept. 29, Vermont Game Wardens Richard Watkin and Lt. Greg Eckhardt, with assistance from the Wilmington Police Department, executed a search warrant at Burke's Wilmington residence. Wardens had previously witnessed Burke placing out plates of food in his yard that bears were actively feeding on.

While on the property, several bears remained on the scene and were indifferent to the presence of the wardens. They continued to feed on the plates of food and walked among the wardens and their vehicles.

"A bear that has been fed no longer behaves like a wild bear," said Forrest Hammond, bear biologist for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. "These bears often go from house to house foraging for food and they gradually lose their fear of people. They can present a danger not just to the person feeding the bear, but also to their neighbors for many miles around."

Burke had been issued a violation notice in 2006 ordering him to stop feeding bears. After feeding bears became illegal in Vermont in 2013, wardens and biologists visited Burke to notify him of the change and to work with him on a plan to wean the bears off artificial food sources.

Wildlife officials believe that Burke continued to feed bears after 2013. Hammond has placed radio collar tracking devices on more than a dozen bears in that region of the state to follow the bears' movements as part of an ongoing study on bear movements near a proposed wind energy development. According to Hammond, bears frequented Burke's yard and would spend extended periods of time there, which would be extremely unusual for a wild bear that is not being fed.

Watkin also observed that multiple bears have been hit by vehicles along the stretch of road near Burke's residence.

"Too often, these instances end tragically for the bears," said Hammond. "The bear spends time in neighborhoods and gets hit by a car, or it becomes a problem or even aggressive and needs to be put down. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department and our many conservation and sporting partners work hard to ensure that Vermont's black bear population remains healthy and wild."

Burke was fined $868 and lost his right to hunt, fish or trap in Vermont for three years.

Hunting, fishing, trapping licenses now available

Vermont hunting, fishing and trapping licenses for 2017 are available on the Fish & Wildlife Department's website, www.vtfishandwildlife.com.

"Vermonters really enjoy hunting and fishing," said Vermont Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter. "Many people like to purchase their new licenses before Jan. 1 so they will be ready to go ice fishing."

According to a federal survey, Vermonters rank first among residents of the lower 48 states when it comes to participating in fish and wildlife recreation — with 62 percent of Vermonters going fishing, hunting or wildlife watching, and they led in the New England states in hunting and fishing with 26 percent of residents participating in one or both.

"Our online license sale system makes buying a year-round license as easy as purchasing a movie off Amazon.com and hunting and fishing are way more rewarding, said Porter. "By purchasing a license, you also support conservation statewide."

Porter noted that proceeds from license sales have leveraged federal funding that have provided some of Vermont's greatest wildlife conservation success stories, including restoring common game species such as moose and wild turkey as well as endangered peregrine falcons, bald eagles, loons, and ospreys. These funds also go to managing more than 133,000 acres of conserved land that provide critical habitat for many species as well as recreational opportunities for all Vermonters.

Moose study

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is initiating a multi-year study to better understand the state's moose herd.

Moose across the Northeast are increasingly under stress from a parasite known as winter ticks. The ticks are becoming more prolific as spring and fall weather has warmed in recent years, causing some moose to collapse from blood loss or die from hypothermia after rubbing their insulating hair off in an attempt to rid themselves of the parasite.

Beginning in January 2017, researchers with the department will start placing radio-collars on up to 60 wild moose to follow their movements and determine causes of mortality. Moose will be captured by expert wildlife capture contractors using nets from helicopters via well-established techniques that minimize stress and harm to the animal. Department staff will then track these moose for several years using the GPS points gathered by the collars, and by visiting moose directly in the field to record observations. Vermont is the fourth northeastern state to partake in such a study - state fish and wildlife agencies in New Hampshire, Maine, and New York are currently using the same methods to examine their moose herds.

Biologists hope to better understand whether Vermont's moose calves are surviving to adulthood. They want to know what is causing the death of any moose that die during the study period, including those that are killed by predators such as coyotes or bears, and those that die from brainworm infections or stress caused by winter tick parasites. Biologists will also examine whether female moose are successfully reproducing and where their young go after they leave their mother's side.

"Moose face a variety of potential threats in the northeast, from warmer temperatures to dramatically increased parasite loads and habitat fragmentation," said Cedric Alexander, the department's lead moose biologist. "It is important that we understand how much these factors are affecting our moose population in Vermont. Our moose conservation efforts must be based on a strong foundation of science if we are to understand and address these threats in the long term."

Vermont's moose herd has decreased from an estimated high of over 5,000 individuals in the state in the early 2000s to roughly 2,200 today. The majority of the reduction in the number of moose was a deliberate effort by biologists to bring the herd into better balance with available habitat at a time they were considered overabundant. A single moose can eat over 25 pounds of food a day and their browsing was damaging forest ecosystems, harming not only their own habitat but habitats for many other animals.

According to Alexander, this deliberate reduction in the herd through hunting may have also helped Vermont's moose stave off the worst effects of winter ticks as they have increasingly become a problem in recent years. "Winter ticks spread more rapidly when moose are overabundant," said Alexander. "Although we decreased Vermont's moose herd to reduce the impacts of moose on the landscape, it may have also contributed to the much lower rates of winter ticks on Vermont's moose than biologists observe on moose in New Hampshire or Maine."

The study will run through 2019. For more information, go to www.vtfishandwildlife.com.

Grants available to improve shooting ranges

Vermont Fish & Wildlife is offering shooting range improvement grants to create more access to safe places to shoot.

Developed to encourage upgrades of shooting ranges to enhance their safety and operation, the Shooting Range Improvement Grant Program seeks grant applications from shooting clubs, sportsmen's groups and government agencies involved in the operation of shooting ranges, including archery ranges until 4:30 p.m. on March 15. The grant period begins July 1.

Eligible projects include shooting range re-development, noise abatement structures, safety berms, shooting pads and stations, and the construction or improvement of access roads and parking lots. Grant money can be also used for lead mitigation, such as recycling, reducing range floor surface drainage or liming range property.

An estimated $75,000 in grant funds will be available this year. These funds are derived through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wildlife Restoration Program which is based on federal excise taxes on hunting and shooting equipment.

Ranges that receive one of these grants must provide at least 20 hours of public use per month when in operation and be open at reasonable times for hunter education courses.

For further information or to download an application packet, visit the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department website at www.vtfishandwildlife.com. Click on "Hunting and Trapping," and then on "Shooting Ranges in Vermont." Or, contact Daneil Pieterse at (802) 272-6923.

Anglers be aware of errors in 2017 fishing law digest

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is reaching out to both resident and non-resident anglers to provide clarification on four errors published in the 2017 Vermont Fishing Guide & Regulations digest recently put on shelves at license agents statewide.

The first error pertains to the sale or purchase of fish, and is found on page 18. The digest text currently states, "A permit is required to sell or buy fish caught in Vermont." This is inaccurate.

The regulation should read: "A person shall not buy or sell a salmon, trout, lake trout, walleye, northern pike, muskellunge or black bass taken in this state, or imported from another state or country where sale of such fish is prohibited, except such fish reared in licensed propagation farms within the state." This means under the current regulations, anglers may sell fish and businesses may buy fish caught in Vermont that are not listed above.

The second error relates to the daily limit of yellow perch for Vermont lakes, ponds, impoundments, reservoirs and particular rivers and streams, found in Table 2 on page 87. The digest text currently lists a daily limit of "None" for yellow perch under Table 2. This is erroneous. The correct daily limit of yellow perch under Table 2 is "50".

The third error is found on page 77 under the listing for Goshen Dam (Sugar Hill Reservoir). Information for an unrelated waterbody was inadvertently listed for Goshen Dam. The correct information should be: Town - Goshen, County - Addison, Table - 5, Ice Fishing Table - 6, Map - 9, Lake Area (acres) - 63, Access - BLANK, Internal Combustion Boat Motors Allowed - BLANK, Other Boating Restrictions - BLANK. Additionally, the only special regulations that apply to Goshen Dam are: "Only open to fishing from 2nd Saturday April to Oct. 31," and "Closed to ice fishing."

The final error is the accidental omission of Great Averill Lake (towns of Norton and Averill, also referred to as Big Averill Lake) from the Index of Lakes & Ponds beginning on page 73. However, this waterbody and all applicable information and regulations are referenced under the listing for Big Averill Lake found on page 74 of the digest.

"We hope anglers will take note of this information, and pass it on to any of their fellow fishing friends as well," said Bernie Pientka, fisheries biologist with Vermont Fish & Wildlife. "Also, as a reminder, waterbody-specific regulations accompanying waters listed in the indexes of lakes and ponds and rivers and streams in the digest always supersede general state fishing regulations."

Anglers with questions regarding the 2017 Vermont Fishing Guide & Regulations digest, or Vermont fishing regulations in general, should contact their local game warden. Contact information for all Vermont game wardens is available on page 92 of the digest and can also be found online at www.vtfishandwildlife.com.

To learn more about fishing in Vermont, access the new "Vermont Online Fish Regulations Tool," or purchase a fishing license, visit www.vtfishandwildlife.com.

Fairfield man cited for multiple counts of deer poaching

Vermont state game wardens arrested Nicholas Robert, 29, of Fairfield on Dec. 6 and charged him with four counts of taking deer during closed season and hunting deer with bait. Game Warden Dustin Snyder received a tip of several, potentially illegal, deer hanging in a tree in the woods in Fairfield. Snyder investigated and located three illegally taken antlerless deer hanging from a tree. He also discovered the deer had been killed with a small caliber rifle, and he found where four deer had been killed near a bait pile and elevated shooting shack.

The owner of the shack, Robert, was interviewed and confessed to killing the four antlerless deer with the use of bait. The fourth deer, killed with a muzzleloading rifle, was located in a barn on the property. Robert did not have an antlerless deer permit for the 2016 muzzleloader deer season.

Robert must appear in Franklin Superior Court Criminal Division in late January to answer the charges of four counts of taking deer in closed season and hunting deer over bait. If convicted, he will be fined up to $1,000 and he could be imprisoned for 60 days for each charge. He also could be ordered pay up to $2,000 in restitution for each deer taken illegally, forfeit his rifles and lose his privilege to hunt, fish and trap in Vermont for three years.

During the 2016 Vermont muzzleloader deer season a hunter may take one legal buck with at least one antler having two or more points. With a muzzleloader antlerless permit issued by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, a person may take an antlerless deer within the authorized wildlife management unit.

Williamstown man charged with stealing deer

Vermont State Game Wardens have charged a Williamstown man after he stole a legal buck hanging at another hunter's home.

On Nov. 14, Estey Manning, Jr., of Rood Pond Road, reported the theft of his 145 lb. buck to State Police. He had checked it in two days earlier at the Farm and Country Store, a local big game reporting station.

Manning provided a photo of the buck, which had unique antlers, to a game warden.

On the same day Manning discovered his deer was stolen, wardens learned that Joshua B. Young, 26, of Williamstown had taken a similar deer to the same reporting station where Manning had checked in his deer.

Upon further investigation, Young was found in possession of the stolen deer, which he acknowledged he had stolen from Manning.

Young was charged with transporting a deer taken by another person without that person present, a violation of Fish & Wildlife law that carries a fine of $262 and the loss of Young's hunting fishing and trapping privileges for one year. He is scheduled to appear at Orange Superior Court on Dec. 28.

Colchester man charged after shooting from the road

A Colchester man faces serious penalties after being caught shooting from the road on the last day of Vermont's November deer hunting season.

After receiving complaints of people shooting at deer from a road, Vermont State Game Wardens deployed an antlered deer facsimile in Cambridge on Nov. 27. At approximately 2:15 p.m. the wardens observed a truck stop near the deer facsimile and saw the driver shoot at it from the driver's seat of the truck.

When the wardens announced their presence, the operator left the scene at a high rate of speed. The wardens pursued the truck for several miles on back roads before they observed the truck drive behind a building in Cambridge.

The violator, 22-year-old Justin Andrews of Colchester, was taken into custody for having a loaded long gun in a motor vehicle, shooting from a motor vehicle and failure to stop for a game warden.

Andrews must appear in Lamoille Superior Court, Criminal Division, in January 2017 to answer the charges. If convicted, Andrews will be fined up to $1,000 for each offense and lose his privilege to hunt, fish and trap in Vermont for three years. The rifle used to commit the offense would also be forfeited to the state.

Bridport man wins lifetime hunting and fishing license lottery

David Girard, 56, of Bridport, Vermont, is the lucky winner of the 2016 Vermont Lifetime Hunting and Fishing License Lottery. With his lifetime license, Girard will be entitled to hunt and fish for free for life. He was drawn as the winner from among 10,067 lottery tickets purchased in 2016.

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department holds the drawing annually and presents a lifetime hunting and fishing license to the winner.

"The Lifetime License Lottery gives anyone, resident or nonresident, an opportunity to win a Vermont hunting and fishing license that is valid for the recipient's lifetime," said Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter. "Even if you don't win the license, by applying, you know you have contributed to fish and wildlife conservation in Vermont."

This year's sales of the $2.00 tickets brought $20,134 to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. These state dollars can be leveraged with federal funds to produce $80,536 to support the department's mission to conserve fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the people of Vermont.

"These funds help us to manage the state's sportfish and game animals, protect threatened and endangered species, and conserve important habitat for wildlife," said Porter.

Hunters and anglers can enter Vermont's License of a Lifetime Lottery by adding the $2.00 entry fee when they buy their license on the Fish & Wildlife Department website at vtfishandwildlife.com. They can also enter by applying at locations statewide wherever Vermont hunting and fishing licenses are sold, or with a printable application also available on the department website. There is no limit on the number of times someone may enter during the year.


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