Gray Fox

A gray fox photographed by one of Sophie Mazowita’s wildlife cameras, triggered by heat and motion, in the Queen City Park area near Potash Brook.

Curious to know what wild animals pass through your yard or nearby open spaces? Burlington Mammal Tracking Project coordinator Sophie Mazowita is offering a wildlife talk Wednesday, Dec. 12 at 7 p.m., at South Burlington City Hall, 575 Dorset Street. This hour-long presentation will introduce you to the large mammals of our city and how to read the tracks and signs they leave behind. Featuring photos and video footage, Mazowita, a master naturalist, will talk about the secretive lives of South Burlington’s wild residents.

The city is home to bobcats, coyotes, otters, deer, and other large mammals that can have home ranges of up to several square miles. Their core habitat, where they den, hunt, and feed, is typically in the city’s larger natural areas and off-the-beaten path where people and dogs do not disturb them. But, according to Mazowita, these mammals will also travel along narrow wildlife corridors to connect from one large open space to another.

“In some cases, a wildlife corridor could be a narrow strip of forest or shrubs just 20 or 30 feet wide, “she said, “and this can serve as a critical link for wild animals to survive in an otherwise fragmented natural landscape.”

The Tracking Project seeks to map these travel corridors and road crossings throughout the greater Burlington area, all based on sightings of wildlife – or their tracks and signs – submitted by the public and collected by volunteer trackers. This data, combined with additional sightings from University of Vermont students, will be compiled into a map and report to serve as a resource for city planners, local conservation organizations, and the general public for making decisions with wildlife in mind. The report is due out next summer.

Any and all mammal observations can be contributed to this study, but the Tracking Project is particularly interested in road crossing points, travel corridors, and core habitat areas for these focal species: bobcat, fisher, coyote, red fox, gray fox, moose, deer, beaver, mink, otter, black bear, and porcupine.

Mazowita is also the coordinator of the Vermont Master Naturalist Program, which she brought to South Burlington this past summer. She reports the program is off and running with 12 enthusiastic participants.

“So far, they’ve been learning the geological and glacial history of South Burlington, with visits to Red Rocks and Wheeler Park, looking for clues that reveal about 500 million years of history!” she said. “Their next field trip, in January, will focus on winter trees and wildlife tracks.”

The Dec. 12 presentation is aimed at South Burlington residents interested in contributing sightings to the project, as well as anyone who wants to learn more about local wildlife. The program is free, with a suggested donation to the Tracking Project and the Master Naturalist Program. For more information, visit trackingvt.org/project.

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