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General Regulations

Retrieval and Use of Covered Wild Animals

In Vermont, it's imperative to not only abstain from the intentional killing of covered wild animals without a valid reason but also to ensure their retrieval post-hunt. This rule encompasses a variety of animals, including moose, deer, bear, wild turkeys, gray squirrels, snowshoe hare, cottontail rabbits, game birds, crows, and furbearers.

Processing and Disposal

Retrieved animals must be processed for consumable or usable parts such as food, fur, hide, or feathers, or alternatively used in taxidermy. Coyotes are a notable exception; if lawfully taken by non-trapping means and legally disposed of, they are not bound by these processing requirements. It's strictly prohibited to abandon any parts of these animals, including coyotes, in public spaces or on private property without permission.

Exceptions to Retrieval Obligations

There are situations exempt from this retrieval obligation, such as animals deemed unfit for consumption, theft, loss to other wildlife, inaccessible due to posting, in defense scenarios, or when the animal is sick or diseased.

Definitions: "Take" and "Taking"

These terms broadly cover actions like pursuing, shooting, hunting, killing, capturing, trapping, and other methods of acquiring fish, birds, or other animals. It also includes indirect actions like setting traps or nets and aiding others in these activities.

Camping and Trespass Regulations

Unauthorized use of private lands for activities like parking, driving, or camping is illegal without the landowner's consent. Immediate departure from these properties is mandated upon the owner's request. Notably, camping in roadside turnouts or on public highways overnight is also illegal.

Importation of Wildlife

Bringing live wild mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, or fish into the state requires a prior importation permit. This regulation is crucial for preventing the introduction of non-native species and maintaining ecological balance.

Interference with Legal Hunting

It's against the law to intentionally disrupt legal fishing or hunting activities. This includes any form of harassment or disturbance aimed at the hunter or the targeted wildlife.

Interstate Highway Restrictions

Pedestrian activities, including walking and crossing boundary fences along interstate highways, are strictly prohibited to ensure safety and legality.

Private Roads and Land Access

Obstructing private access points with vehicles is illegal. Additionally, using private lands for camping or driving without the landowner's permission is a violation of Vermont laws.

Inclusivity of Season Dates

All hunting season dates provided in the regulations are inclusive, offering clear and definitive timeframes for legal hunting activities.

Penalties for Violation Aiding

Aiding in any form of violation, whether by driving, transporting, scouting, counseling, or sharing in the illegal proceeds, results in the same penalties as the principal violator. This includes illegal possession or consumption of fish, wild animals, or their parts.

Damage to Fish & Wildlife Property

Damaging or destroying state-owned wildlife property, including decoys, incurs a responsibility for restitution. Intentional or reckless damage to any state property used for fish, game, or wildlife purposes can lead to fines up to $2,500, along with mandatory restitution for repair or replacement.

Fines & Penalties for Wildlife Violations

Overview of Penalties for Violations

In Vermont, stringent penalties are imposed on individuals who violate state laws or regulations pertaining to the taking, possession, transportation, buying, or selling of big game or threatened or endangered species. These penalties include fines, potential imprisonment, license revocation, and forfeiture of equipment involved in the violation.

Financial Consequences for First-Time Violators

For a first-time conviction, violators may face fines up to $1,000. This penalty serves as a deterrent against the illegal handling of wildlife, particularly big game and species that are threatened or endangered.

Escalated Penalties for Repeat Offenders

Subsequent convictions carry significantly heavier fines, ranging from a minimum of $2,000 to a maximum of $4,000. This escalating fine structure is designed to impose harsher penalties on repeat offenders and underscore the seriousness of wildlife protection laws.

Possibility of Imprisonment

In addition to financial penalties, violators may also face imprisonment for up to 60 days. This aspect of the law indicates the state's commitment to enforcing wildlife protection regulations through both financial and criminal consequences.

Combined Penalties and Restitution

Violators may be subject to a combination of fines, imprisonment, and restitution payments to the Fish and Wildlife Fund. Restitution payments are particularly crucial as they contribute directly to wildlife conservation efforts and mitigate the impact of the violation.

License Revocation Based on Point System

License revocation is determined based on the point system outlined in 10 V.S.A. Sect. 4502. This system quantifies the severity of violations and ensures that individuals with repeated or severe offenses face appropriate consequences, including the loss of hunting privileges. The point system acts as both a punitive and preventive measure, discouraging potential violators from engaging in illegal activities involving wildlife.

Restitution Requirements for Wildlife Violations

In Vermont, individuals convicted of illegally taking, destroying, or possessing wild animals are mandated to make financial restitution into the Fish and Wildlife Fund. This restitution is in addition to any court-imposed penalties and varies depending on the type of wildlife involved.

Restitution Amounts by Wildlife Category

  • Big Game: Restitution can be up to $2,000.00.
  • Endangered/Threatened Species: The cap for restitution is also up to $2,000.00.
  • Small Game: Restitution may reach up to $500.00.
  • Fish: The maximum restitution is set at $50.00.

Civil Enforcement for Threatened & Endangered Species

  • Alternative to Criminal Prosecution: The Agency of Natural Resources has the authority to pursue civil enforcement in lieu of criminal prosecution for harming or taking threatened or endangered species.
  • Civil Penalties: These penalties can be as high as $42,500 for a single violation.
  • List of Threatened and Endangered Species: Available on the Vermont Fish & Wildlife website, this list includes species such as lake sturgeon, timber rattlesnake, spruce grouse, and the Indiana bat. Federal penalties may also be applicable.

Posted Property Regulations under Fish & Wildlife Law

Legal Requirements for Posted Land

  • Prohibition without Permission: Hunting, fishing, or trapping on properly posted land is illegal without written permission from the landowner.
  • Posting Process: For a land to be properly posted, the landowner must file with the town clerk and the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.
  • License Presentation: Regardless of whether the property is posted, hunters or anglers must show their license upon the landowner's request.
  • Prohibition on Poster Damage: It's illegal to damage or remove posters that prohibit hunting, fishing, or trapping.
  • Immediate Departure: A person must leave the land immediately upon the landowner's demand, posted or not.

Posting & Permission Only Signs

Guidelines for Posting

  • Posting Authorization: A landowner or person with exclusive rights to game on the land can post signs prohibiting or restricting hunting, fishing, or trapping.
  • Sign Requirements and Maintenance: Signs must be at least 8 ½ inches by 11 inches with contrasting colors for lettering and background. They should be dated annually and placed at strategic locations.
  • Recording of Posting: The posting must be annually recorded at the town clerk's office for a fee of $5.00.
  • Sign Placement: Signs must be erected on or near all boundaries, at each corner, and no more than 400 feet apart.
  • Sign Language Flexibility: Signs remain valid even with additional language, provided the prohibition on hunting, fishing, or trapping is clear.

Safety Zone Establishment

Creation of Safety Zones

  • Safety Zone Around Buildings: Landowners can establish a 500-foot safety zone around occupied buildings with signs provided by Vermont Fish & Wildlife.
  • Shooting Prohibition: Shooting within this safety zone is prohibited.
  • Sign Placement: Signs should be placed at each corner of the safety zone and not more than 200 feet apart.

Falconry

Falconry is legal by special permit. Contact Vermont Fish & Wildlife for information at (802) 828-1483. Only the State permit is required.

Sale or Purchase of Game Regulations

Restrictions on Small Game Transactions

  • Prohibition on Trade: It is categorically illegal to buy or sell wild birds, cottontail rabbits, snowshoe hares, or gray squirrels. This regulation is strictly enforced to protect these species from commercial exploitation.

Big Game Trade Regulations

  • Limited Legal Period: The buying or selling of big game or its meat is only permissible during the open season and for 20 days following its conclusion.
  • Transportation Restriction: Meat of big game sold within the state cannot be transported out of Vermont.
  • Specific Prohibitions: The trade of anadromous Atlantic salmon from the Connecticut River Basin and wild turkey is illegal at all times.

Permissible Transactions

  • Deer and Moose: Sale or purchase of the head, hide, and hoofs of legally taken deer or moose is allowed.
  • Black Bear: The head, hide, paws, and internal organs of a legally taken black bear can be traded.

Regulations on Deer Hides

  • Licensing Requirement: Individuals engaged in the business of buying furs, skins of furbearers, or deer hides must possess a valid Fur Buyer’s License. For licensing, contact Vermont Fish & Wildlife in Springfield.

International Trade of Bear Parts

  • Regulatory Compliance: Trade in bear hides, claws, skulls, or teeth is governed by federal law and international treaties.
  • Export Permit: Selling bear parts outside the United States requires an export permit, obtainable for a fee from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Office of Management Authority.

Game Suppers

  • Permit Requirement for Nonprofit Organizations: Churches, volunteer fire departments, fish and game clubs, and other nonprofit entities can hold game suppers any time with a permit from a State Game Warden.
  • Sources of Game for Suppers: Legally taken wild animals and fish from Vermont or elsewhere can be sold as part of a game supper. Big game supplied by Vermont Fish & Wildlife is also permissible, but migratory waterfowl and anadromous salmon are exceptions.
  • Permit Details: The permit must include the organization’s name, as well as the date and location of the supper. Applications for permits should be submitted at least 10 days before the event to the Warden Service Division.

Transportation of Fish or Game Regulations

Basic Transportation Rule

  • Requirement for Presence: Transportation of fish or game is strictly permissible only when the individual who legally took the fish or game is present. This regulation is crucial for ensuring accountability and compliance with hunting and fishing limits.

Prohibitions on Transportation

  1. Transportation of Others' Catch: It is illegal to transport fish or game taken by another person unless the individual who took it is accompanying the catch. This measure is implemented to prevent the bypassing of legal catch limits and to ensure traceability.
  2. During Closed Seasons: Transporting fish or game during their respective closed seasons is prohibited. This rule supports the conservation efforts by enforcing seasonal restrictions.
  3. Exceeding Legal Limits: Fish or game that surpasses the daily legal limit cannot be transported. This restriction helps maintain sustainable population levels of fish and game.

Exception for Temporary Abode Travel

  • Increased Limit for Home Travel: As an exception, a person traveling from a temporary abode (like a hunting camp) to their home is allowed to transport the quantity of fish or game legally permissible for two days in a single day. This exception considers the practical aspects of hunters or anglers staying in remote locations and facilitates their return home with their legally obtained catch.

Public Use of Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department Lands

Overview of Vermont Fish & Wildlife Properties

  • Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs): Vermont Fish & Wildlife owns a substantial network of conservation lands, including 100 WMAs, two conservation camps, five fish culture stations, encompassing over 130,000 acres throughout Vermont.
  • Purpose of WMAs: These areas are dedicated to conserving fish, wildlife, and their habitats. They are designed to offer the public opportunities to engage in various fish- and wildlife-based outdoor activities. This includes fishing, hunting, trapping, as well as wildlife viewing and photography.
  • Accessibility: Information and maps of these Wildlife Management Areas are available on the Vermont Fish & Wildlife website.

Definitions for Public Use

  • Commercial Activity: This term refers to any activity or service that generates income. It applies to all persons, groups, businesses, or entities, including non-profit organizations that may require or request a fee for their services or activities.
  • Emergency Situation: Defined as any unplanned or unexpected event that poses a risk to the health or life of a person or animal. This definition is crucial for managing and responding to unforeseen circumstances on these lands.

Permitted Recreational Activities

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department authorizes a variety of activities across its lands, ensuring that the public can enjoy the natural resources responsibly and sustainably. These activities are permitted under specific rules to protect wildlife and their habitats.

Hunting, Fishing, and Trapping

  • Target Shooting: Allowed at designated shooting ranges.
  • Wildlife Activities: Includes fishing, hunting, and trapping in accordance with state regulations.

Wildlife Observation and Photography

  • Engaging in fish and wildlife viewing and photography is encouraged, providing an opportunity to appreciate Vermont's diverse wildlife.

Boating

  • Boating activities, including launching and landing, are permitted for fishing and wildlife-based activities, except where restricted by other regulations or statutes.

Dispersed Wildlife-Based Pedestrian Activities

  • Activities such as walking, snowshoeing, swimming, cross-country skiing, and collecting shed antlers are allowed, promoting a respectful and minimal-impact interaction with nature.

Non-Commercial Foraging

  • Picking berries, nuts, fungi, and other wild edibles is allowed, except for ginseng, fostering a connection with the natural environment.

Guiding Services

  • Guiding for fishing, hunting, and trapping is permitted, offering guided experiences for those less familiar with these activities.

Camping Regulations

Non-Primitive Camping

  • Designated Sites: Camping with portable shelters equipped with a self-contained, portable, sanitary toilet is allowed on specific sites designated by the department.
  • Time Frame: This type of camping is permissible for no more than 16 days between May 1–31 and September 1 through December 15.
  • Location Information: Designated campsite locations can be found on the WMA maps available on the Vermont Fish & Wildlife website.

Primitive Camping

  • Environmentally Conscious Camping: Involves occupying a site in a natural setting with no developed facilities, ensuring minimal impact and leaving the site as it was found.
  • Duration and Locations: Allowed for up to 3 consecutive nights in specified WMAs, with the requirement that campsites be at least 200 feet from any waterbody, property line, or road.
  • Specific WMAs for Primitive Camping: Includes various areas with certain restrictions, detailed on the department's website.

Prohibited Activities on Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department Lands

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department has established specific prohibitions to ensure the conservation of wildlife habitats and the safety of visitors on their lands. These rules are designed to protect the natural environment and wildlife, as well as to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for all visitors.

Motorized and Non-Motorized Vehicles

  • ATVs and UTVs: The use of ATVs, UTVs, or any non-highway registered wheeled or tracked motorized vehicles is prohibited unless a special permit is obtained.
  • Motorized Vehicles: Allowed only on roads specifically designated for such use. Refer to WMA maps for designated roads.
  • Snowmobiling: Permitted only in areas approved by the department and on designated corridors.

Animal Use and Recreational Activities

  • Horseback Riding and Dog Sledding: Allowed only on designated corridors.
  • Non-Motorized Cycle Riding: Restricted to specific corridors as indicated on WMA maps.
  • Draft and Pack Animals: Permitted solely for retrieving legally harvested moose, deer, and black bear during respective hunting seasons.

Commercial Activities

  • Guiding Services: Commercial activities are limited to guiding for fishing, hunting, trapping, or wildlife viewing.

Environmental Protection

  • Artifact and Fossil Collection: Prohibited to preserve historical and natural resources.
  • Fires: Allowed only in emergency situations or as specified for camping.
  • Disposal of Animal Carcasses: Discarding any animal carcass or parts is forbidden, except for field processing of legally harvested game.
  • Structures: Construction or placement of temporary or permanent structures is restricted, with exceptions for certain hunting blinds.
  • Plant Collection: Gathering of plants, trees, or limbs is prohibited, except for wild edibles under specific rules.

Safety and Respect for Property

  • Fireworks and Pyrotechnics: Prohibited except for signal flares in emergencies.
  • Feeding or Baiting Wildlife: Not allowed to prevent habituation and health risks to animals.
  • Fishing Restrictions: Taking fish from culture stations is only allowed during special department-sanctioned events.
  • Restricted Access: Entering within 500 feet of department buildings or infrastructure during non-public hours is prohibited.
  • Parking: Limited to times when engaging in an authorized activity.

General Restrictions

  • Activities such as para-sailing, hang-gliding, recreational rock climbing, and geocaching are not authorized unless specifically permitted in writing by the commissioner.

Shooting Ranges Managed by Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department

Locations and Accessibility

  • Hammond Cove Shooting Range in Hartland and West Mountain Shooting Range in Ferdinand are the two publicly accessible shooting ranges maintained by the department.
  • These ranges offer a controlled environment for shooting activities, adhering to strict safety and operational guidelines.

User Requirements and Regulations

Licensing and Visitor Policy

  • License Requirement: Individuals aged 15 and older must possess a valid Vermont hunting, fishing, or combination license, except when attending a department-sponsored event.
  • Visitor Limitation: Users are allowed one unlicensed visitor, for whom they are responsible. This visitor must obtain their own license after three visits within a year.

Safety and Usage Rules

  • Adherence to Range Rules: Users must obey all range rules related to safety and hours of operation, as well as follow instructions from the range officer.
  • Prohibited Items: The use of tracers, armor-piercing or steel core ammunition, fireworks, pyrotechnics, and explosive targets (like tannerite) is strictly forbidden. Rapid firing (more than one round per second) is not allowed at Hammond Cove.
  • No Alcohol, Tobacco, or Pets: These items are prohibited to ensure safety and maintain a family-friendly environment.

Supervision for Young Shooters

  • Accompaniment Requirement: Shooters aged 15 or younger must be accompanied by an adult over 18, unless they are attending an official department event.

Operational Hours

Hammond Cove Shooting Range

  • Open Period: April 1 to December 14.
  • Hours of Operation: Thursday to Monday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., except Sundays (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).
  • Holiday Closures: Closed on state and federal holidays.

West Mountain Shooting Range

  • Open Period: April 16 to December 14.
  • Weekday Hours: 8 a.m. to sunset.
  • Weekend Hours: 9 a.m. to sunset.

Hunting and Trapping in Green Mountain National Forest

Overview of Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF)

  • Size and Location: The GMNF spans 400,000 acres across central and southern Vermont, representing a significant tract of federal public land.
  • Managed by U.S. Forest Service (USFS): The USFS is responsible for managing this area, primarily focusing on wildlife habitat conservation and associated recreational activities.

Wildlife Habitat Management

  • Diverse Forest Structure: The GMNF's wildlife, including game and non-game species, depends on a varied forest structure, encompassing different forest stages and environments such as wetlands.
  • Habitat Requirements: Species like bears need a range of habitats, including early successional forest, mature forest, and wetlands within their home range.
  • Forest Management Practices: The USFS actively manages about 2,500 acres annually to enhance wildlife habitat, using methods like timber harvest, thinning, and prescribed fire.
  • Focus on Forest Health: These practices also address forest health concerns, including disease and insect mitigation.

Hunting and Trapping Opportunities

  • Diverse Wildlife Populations: The GMNF is home to thriving populations of furbearers, fish, deer, ruffed grouse, rabbits, woodcock, and wild turkeys.
  • Recreational Activities: Hunting and trapping are encouraged in the GMNF, offering excellent opportunities for these activities.
  • Community Benefits: These activities not only provide recreational enjoyment but also benefit local communities economically and culturally.

Information and Regulations

  • Discover Your National Forests: Hunters, trappers, and anglers are invited to explore and utilize the rich resources of the GMNF.
  • Guidelines and More Information: For detailed information about hunting and trapping in the GMNF, including regulations and guidelines, visit the official website of Green Mountain & Finger Lakes National Forests.

Conservation and Recreation

The management of GMNF exemplifies a balance between conservation of natural resources and providing public access for recreational activities. The USFS's efforts in habitat management ensure the sustainability of wildlife populations, while offering ample opportunities for hunting, trapping, and fishing, enhancing the outdoor experience for visitors. For the latest information, updates, and specific rules, it is advisable to consult the official USFS websites mentioned above.

Wild Advisor Pro

Disclaimer:

The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.