Words to Know
Copyright © 1998 Plymouth Public Schools
Vermont's different ecosystems are home to a variety of wildlife. The forests, swamps, fields, rivers, and lakes of the state provide habitats for such animals as the woodchuck, bear, beaver, otter, and many different birds. Each of these animal species has a certain way in which it fits into the environment. Each one has its own niche. The woodchuck prefers the edge of fields and lawns where it can feed on plants and retreat to its burrow if it is threatened by predators. The beaver prefers streams and ponds that are close to a food supply of birch and aspen trees. The plants and animals living in our state share the environment with us. We must always be careful to protect animal habitats or we may lose some of these species--they will become extinct.
Check out these crazy laws that deal with animals in Vermont
- You will be arrested if you paint your horse in Vermont
- In Vermont, you can be fined if your pig runs in a public park without the permission.
- In Vermont's Lake Champlain, it is illegal to shoot pickerel or northern pike with a gun.
Find more "Loony Laws" in other states at this site: http://www.xmission.com/~emailbox/loonylaws.htm
The Wild Turkey
The wild turkey is one animal that has regained a place in the Vermont environment. As more and more forest land was cleared in the 1800's, the turkey population declined. By 1842, the turkey was extinct in the state. In 1969, thirty-one live turkeys were brought from southwestern New York and released in western Vermont. About 17 birds were released in Pawlet that year. Another 14 were released in Hubbardton near Castleton in 1970. Some birds were later selected and transplanted to the eastern part of the state and the upper Champlain Valley in the Vermont Lowlands.
Photo used with permission from USGS
Today the turkey population has increased and spread across the state. It is limited to these areas by the high elevations of the Green Mountains and the deeper winter snowfall. The turkey survives on the nuts of oak, chestnut, beech, and hickory trees. The wild turkey is now better able to survive because the forest cover in Vermont has increased from between 20% to 30% in 1850 to about 80% today.
The White-tailed Deer
The story of the wild turkey shows that when humans disturb these different animal habitats, their survival may be put in jeopardy. We have also learned some valuable lessons from the story of the white-tailed deer in Vermont. Before the settlers came to this region, there were plenty of deer that provided food and clothing for the native American Indians. With the arrival of the settlers the deer were hunted year round in large numbers. By the late 1800's much of the land had been cleared for lumber or for farmland. At this time, there were no laws to protect the deer. The deer population dropped considerably.
Vermonters soon realized that something had to be done to reverse this situation. Laws were passed to restrict hunting. Predators of the deer such as wolves and catamounts were eliminated by bounty systems. Bounties were rewards given to people for hunting certain animals that the government wanted to control or eliminate. At the same time, many hill farms in Vermont were being abandoned. This meant that cleared land was returning to brush and young forest growth, the ideal habitat for deer.
White Tailed Deer
Picture from http://www.nhptv.org/natureworks/whitetaileddeer.htm
By the 1930's the white-tailed deer population was once again well established in Vermont. Today the deer is a valuable and popular game animal. There are an estimated 160,000 deer in Vermont. We have learned a great deal over the last 100 years about helping the deer herd in Vermont to stay healthy. The proper forest habitat must be maintained. The state government must also continue to control the hunting season through laws.
Click here for a map of Vermont showing deer taken in 1982
Click here for a map of Vermont showing deer taken in 2000.
What has changed? Any ideas why? Tell us!!!
Humans can have a devastating effect upon the population of a wild animal. We sometimes have the ability to correct our mistakes and bring animal populations back.
Facts About the White-tailed Deer
A full-grown deer is about three feet tall at the shoulder. A buck weighs up to 300 pounds and a doe weighs about 140 pounds. Their coats are reddish-brown in the summer and grayish in the winter. Their coats also grow thicker in the winter. They raise their white tail as a warning of danger when they turn and run away.
A doe usually gives birth to one or two fawns in the spring. A fawn is spotted so it blends with the surrounding vegetation, and it has little scent. This way the fawn is protected from predators.
White-tailed deer browse on twigs, buds, acorns, grass, and wild apples. Their preferred habitat is the forest, swamps, and open brush areas. They also move to find protected areas during bad weather.
A white-tailed deer depends on its senses of smell, sight, and hearing to be warned of danger. If it is frightened, it can run up to 35 miles per hour.
Here are some pre-prepared lesson plans dealing with Vermont animals!
Click here for some discussion questions.
Click here for some questions about this section.