Vermonters have a strong tradition of enjoying and caring for wildlife. Fifty-three percent of us enjoy some form of wildlife-related recreation, including fishing, hunting, and watching wildlife, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey. More than 200,000 Vermonters regularly watch, photograph, or feed wildlife.

While there are many sporting and environmental organizations working to conserve Vermont’s wildlife and wildlife habitat, we all can play a role in protecting our state’s wild animals.

Consider these one dozen ways you can help wildlife in Vermont:

  1. Don’t feed game animals such as deer, turkey, and bear. Although well-intentioned, feeding these animals can actually harm them. Many wild animals, particularly deer, have sensitive digestive systems. Animals at a concentrated feeding site are more likely to transmit disease. And conditioning game animals to seek food from humans can get them into trouble later.
  2. Use fishing sinkers made of metals other than lead. Loons and other waterfowl can die if they ingest lead sinkers on the bottom of lakes and ponds.
  3. Don’t import exotic plants, animals, or fish. As demonstrated by the explosive growth of zebra mussels in Lake Champlain, the introduction of a non-native species can have a dramatic impact on other wildlife species and personal property. Don’t bring new species of animals into Vermont, and don’t transport exotics from one waterway to another. (For instance, don’t carry bait and bait bucketwater from one lake to another.) Use native species for plantings. Importing exotic plants can disrupt and even destroy native vegetation, depriving some animals of their primary sources of food.
  4. Leave part of your backyard unmowed. Even a small amount of lawn allowed to go wild can provide habitat for many small wildlife species, including songbirds and butterflies.
  5. Support land conservation efforts in your community.
  6. Support deer and moose hunting in Vermont. Keeping our wildlife in better balance with their forest habitat benefits them and the trees they depend upon for food.
  7. Control your pets. Dogs will chase and kill deer, and cats will kill a wide variety of wildlife, including songbirds.
  8. Help protect wildlife by reporting any poaching activity to your local game warden, who can be reached by calling the nearest State Police dispatcher.
  9. Buy a Vermont Conservation License Plate to support watersheds and wildlife. The Nongame Wildlife Fund supports the state’s efforts to inventory and protect animals which are not hunted or fished. The Watershed Grants Program provides grant money to community organizations and local governments for monitoring and improving water quality, improving aquatic habitat, and protecting streambanks and shorelines.
  10. Stay on designated snowmobile and hiking trails, and stay off mountain trails in the spring until June.
  11. Leave or create undisturbed buffer strips along water courses and around lakes and ponds. These buffer strips protect water quality and provide wildlife habitat.
  12. Introduce children to wildlife and the outdoors to pass on our heritage.