Author Archives: pbartlett

Deer Wintering Areas

Most of the state of Vermont’s deer wintering habitat is found in hemlock stands.  Hemlock trees have a low income value here in Vermont but are high in wildlife value therefore we rarely harvest them. The state has mapped many hemlock stands as critical deer wintering sites. Any harvesting in mapped deer wintering areas needs to follow strict guidelines and is usually only done if the trees are sick or have undergone a natural disaster. Hemlock trees can live up to 400 years in this area and will continue to provide great habitat over that time. As you can see below, deer are not the only animals that use a deer wintering area. Almost all animals that are active in the winter will use these wintering areas.

Pictured above: Deer are feeding under a hemlock after a porcupine clipped branches. Porcupines feed on hemlock branches, when they do, many are dropped to the ground. Deer do not pass up this opportunity for a free meal and tend to not travel far from porcupine dens.

Pictured above: Two mature tom turkeys are traveling through the deer wintering area. Turkeys will take advantage of the deer trails in wintering areas where they can stay out of the deep snow. Turkeys will follow deer through the winter and capture a free meal from them. Deer will paw up and feed on nuts, ferns and minerals. Turkeys will take advantage of the shoveling job done by the deer to feed on sprouts and small seeds deer do not eat.

Pictured above: A coyote travels through the deer wintering area. Although coyotes are omnivores, their preferred diet is meat. They will travel through deer wintering areas looking for sick or deceased deer that may have succumbed to the rough winter environment. Deer have the advantage in deep snow and can generally escape predation. Most of the deer that are killed by coyotes in the winter occurs when a heavy, icy crust forms. Coyotes can stay on top of the crust while deer break through. If a deer is killed, many additional animals will feed on it ranging from fox, ravens, hawks to mice and squirrels that will eat the bones.


Plant ID

As spring moves toward summer, another season comes to an end. Morels, an edible mushroom, slowly start to rot away as average temperatures increase.


Although a great foraging opportunity has yet again come and gone for us, many wildlife species are just beginning to expand their diet. Below, a Jack-in-the-pulpit was eaten by a turkey. The tuber root from this plant feeds various wildlife and is a black bears favorite snack after a long winter.

Turkey Nests

This is a turkey nest we found this week that was preyed on. The likely culprit was either a fox, raccoon or mink. Many turkey eggs are prayed on during the spring. Hen turkeys will breed again until they can hopefully raise a brood of chicks. It is not uncommon to see young chicks in the end of June as a result of multiple failed nests.

Winter Den site:Porcupine

This video shows an active porcupine den in a huge hollow maple log and what porcupines feed on in the winter in Vermont. Deer will often come to these sites and feed on the hemlock branches that the porcupine drops to the ground. The porcupine moves like a sloth and climbs trees easily. Twigs, bark and buds of trees are the porcupines main food source in the winter. Much like a beaver which I will show soon.

Against All Odds

This article first appeared in Northen Woodlands on  June 1st 2006 by Patrick Bartlett.

Pine 2Photo by Tucker Westenfeld 2014

Working as a consultant forester, I get to see some unusual things in the forest, but what I found last winter on a woodlot in Ludlow, Vermont, truly amazed me.

This woodlot is owned by Charles Miller and was formerly managed by the late Myron Smith, my mentor and good friend. Myron often carried an axe with him and girdled low-quality trees as he saw fit, to allow better trees to grow. The two white pines in the photo were joined by a limb from the smaller tree at a young age.

I assume that when Myron found these trees 15 years ago, the smaller tree had a severe blister rust canker by the ground. He then chose to cut the tree with his axe, hoping that the bigger and better tree would have less competition from the diseased tree. I’m sure he assumed it would break away from the crop tree that was holding it up that day and never dreamed that the limb connecting the two trees 24 feet off the ground would support and keep the entire cut-off tree alive.

The smaller white pine that was cut off now is 75 feet tall and has a 10-inch diameter at breast height (DBH). The bark is still alive from the base to the top of the tree, and its entire crown still alive. The white pine that supports this tree is 14 inches in diameter and is the same height. This is truly a miracle of nature, for a white pine to survive not only the blister rust disease but also being cut off from its root system.