Press Release

Fall wildlife foods less abundant – but no famine predicted

Vermont Fish & Wildlife is reporting that several important fall foods for wildlife are less abundant this year. 

“Fish & Wildlife staff routinely survey mast stands around the state in late September and early October, and this year they are finding that beechnut counts are very low, following 2019 when the numbers were some of the highest recorded since 1998,” said State Wildlife Biologist Forrest Hammond.  “They also found little sign of deer, turkey and bear feeding in the beech stands.” 

Hammond said that wild apples and berries are also less abundant than last year, but that in most areas of the state biologists report that acorns are more abundant than most other fall wildlife foods.  He noted that wild turkeys, deer, bear, and grouse are concentrating their feeding more in oak stands this year. 

However, this food shortage is not a predictor of a “dark winter” of famine for Vermont wildlife, Hammond said. 

“There certainly is not going to be a famine for wildlife this autumn as most species are adaptable enough that they can switch to other food types other than beech nuts and apples,” Hammond replied to an inquiry from Vermont Daily. “The fact that there are fairly plentiful amounts of acorns is also a key factor in food availability for many species of wildlife.”  

“The press release message [above], rather than warning of famine, was intended more to let folks know where they might expect to find many species of wildlife this fall and of areas where they probably wouldn’t,” Hammond said. “For instance, I received an email last week from a hunter who had been hunting in southern VT on National Forest lands and couldn’t find any bears or even any sign of them and wanted to know what was going on. I advised him that due to the poor production of beechnuts, mountain ash berries and wild apples that the bears in those areas had either denned up already or had moved to lower elevations to take advantage of a good crop of acorns and that if he was looking for bears,  and even turkeys, that he would have to shift his focus to other areas where there was an oak component to the forest.

“Some species of wildlife would have been much more impacted if there hadn’t been a good acorn crop.  If both beechnuts and acorns had been in short supply, as we have documented in some years in the past, then we would have noticed a drop in both squirrel and chipmunk populations,” Hammond said. “This year, although some foods are lacking, most animals will just switch to feeding on other foods and by doing so will end up being more concentrated where those foods are found.”

Moose hunters 73% successful, herd now safer from ticks

Fish and Wildlife says hunters harvested 40 moose in this year’s regulated moose hunting seasons that were limited to the northeastern corner of the state to reduce the impact of winter ticks on the moose population.

All six of the moose harvested in the October 1-7 archery season were bulls. Twenty-nine of the moose harvested in the October 17-22 regular season were bulls, and five were cows. The overall hunter success rate was 73 percent, with 55 percent success during the archery season and 77 percent in the regular season. 

“The goal of the moose hunt is to improve the health of moose….by reducing the impact of winter ticks,” said Nick Fortin, Vermont Fish and Wildlife’s moose biologist.  “Moose density in [the Northeast Kingdom area where the hunt was held] is more than one moose per square mile, significantly higher than any other part of the state.  Moose densities greater than one per square mile support high numbers of winter ticks which negatively impact moose health and survival.”

Deer season begins November

Hunters are gearing up for the start of Vermont’s traditionally popular 16-day regular deer season that begins Saturday, November 14 and ends Sunday, November 29. 

A hunter may take one legal buck during this season. “The greatest numbers of deer continue to be in the southwestern and northwestern regions of the state,” said Fortin.  “The Green Mountains and Northeast Kingdom offer more of a big woods experience with fewer, but often larger, deer.”   

Categories: Press Release

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