Rare animal encounters point to Vt. recovery

Observer courtesy photo Bald eagles have been making a strong comeback in Vermont, Fish & Wildlife officials say.
Observer courtesy photo
Bald eagles have been making a strong comeback in Vermont, Fish & Wildlife officials say.

Staff with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department and Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences released a juvenile bald eagle back into the wild this month at Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area in Addison.

The young eagle was injured when it fell from its nest early this summer. A local wildlife photographer notified the landowner and Fish and Wildlife staff that the eagle was injured.

The bird was initially treated at the Outreach for Earth Stewardship rehabilitation facility in Shelburne, and then transferred to the Vermont Institute for Natural Science in Quechee to complete its rehabilitation.  Biologists attached special identification bands to the eagle’s legs before releasing it to the wild on Wednesday, Oct. 12.

The department also released news this week that a lone Canada lynx was photographed in the southern Vermont town of Londonderry in June, marking the first confirmed evidence of lynx in Vermont outside the Northeast Kingdom in decades.

Lynx are listed as ‘threatened’ under the federal Endangered Species Act and ‘endangered’ in the state of Vermont. It was photographed in the backyard of a rural Londonderry home, and biologists with the Fish and Wildlife confirmed the identification of the animal from the photos and visited the site to confirm the location of the photos. Another suspected lynx was spotted in Searsburg, and found in footage taken in May by a University of Vermont student that had a camera trap set out for research. The animal was photographed while it was passing under Route 9 using a wildlife underpass created in partnership with Vermont Fish & Wildlife and VTrans.

“This was very exciting news for Vermont,” said Chris Bernier, a wildlife biologist for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, who is in charge of lynx conservation. He said there is a belief that the lynx population locally “may have dispersed into Vermont following a boom in Maine’s lynx population in the early 1990s. Maintaining appropriate habitat is vital to ensuring that lynx can exist in this state, even if only as transients.”

He said the presumed distance of travel by the lynx showed it was “vitally important to maintain healthy and well-connected habitat in Vermont. We were thrilled to see the animal using a wildlife underpass that was created for the express purpose of allowing animals to pass safely under the road.”

Bald eagles declined nationwide due to loss of habitat and the effects of the pesticide DDT, the agency said. Laws protecting eagles, such as the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and a ban on DDT have aided in the recovery of the United States’ national symbol.

The bald eagle population in Vermont is in the midst of a strong recovery, according to John Buck, a biologist at Fish and Wildlife. He said that continued support from the public through funding wildlife programs like the Nongame Wildlife Fund as well as efforts to keep a safe distance from nesting eagles, in addition to the work of conservation partners, are critical to the species’ continued recovery in Vermont.  “This release is a great moment for eagle restoration in Vermont,” said Buck.

—Observer staff