Habitat Needs of Deer & Moose
White-tailed deer and moose utilize several different habitats to live in Vermont’s northern climate, but young forest stands less than 20 years old are among the most important. These early successional forests provide abundant food and dense cover. In much of Vermont, the amount of this habitat will affect how many deer or moose an area can support. Young forests also benefit other game species like ruffed grouse, woodcock, snowshoe hare, black bear, and wild turkey, as well as dozens of songbirds, small mammals, and insects. Unfortunately, this habitat has become uncommon in most of Vermont which is a major limiting factor on the populations of many species.
Another important habitat for deer in Vermont is mature hardwood stands. Deer and moose will bed in these areas and consume lichens and mushrooms that grow there, and deer feed on acorns and beechnuts in these areas to fatten up before winter. These stands also provide shade during the summer and safe travel corridors for animals to move across the landscape.
During winter, deer and moose rely on mature conifer stands for shelter and relief from deep snow. Deer wintering areas, or “deer yards,” are large areas of this habitat at lower elevations. They are critical to the survival of deer in most of Vermont.
During the summer months, moose utilize wetlands and aquatic areas to feed on water lilies and other aquatic plants which provide nutrients that are otherwise lacking in their diet. Fields and other open areas provide deer with abundant and nutritious summer forage and important hiding cover for fawns.
All of these habitat components need to be connected and accessible. Moose and deer need to be able to travel safely between cover and feeding areas, and barriers like busy roads, neighborhoods and heavily developed areas can prevent this from happening. Currently, over 70% of Vermont is forested, and 80% of Vermont is privately owned. Because of this, in addition to the work being done around the state on public lands, maintaining connections between seasonal usage areas and creating important habitats like young forests on privately owned properties is essential to healthy deer and moose populations.
Vermont Fish & Wildlife works closely with organizations like the National Wild Turkey Federation, Ruffed Grouse Society, Audubon Vermont, Natural Resources Conservation Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and US Forest Service to create and maintain the diversity of habitats needed by deer and moose throughout the state. Using funds raised through the Vermont Habitat Stamp program, the department has been able to enhance habitat for deer and moose on both publicly- and privately-owned lands by removing invasive plants, cutting patches of trees to create young forest, releasing mast and apple trees, and keeping meadows and fields open. To learn more about how you can create deer and moose habitat on your own property, or support our partners in conservation, visit vtfishandwildlife.com/conserve/lands-and-habitats.