Wildlife Watch: Exploring Burlington’s Intervale with new self-guided trail

Published: Feb. 2, 2021 at 6:26 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Do you ever walk in the woods and wonder what animals might be walking in the woods right next to you? The Intervale Center has teamed up with Vermont Fish & Wildlife for a self-guided walk.

Just a few minutes from downtown Burlington, the Intervale is a great spot to get outdoors during the pandemic. “It’s amazing to have this natural area right here in the city limits of Burlington. It’s incredible, you can bike down here, you can walk down here,” said the Intervale Center’s Duncan Murdoch.

Because of the pandemic, the center hasn’t been able to host its usual educational events and other gatherings. To help find a solution to get people outside and learning, they partnered with the state for an interactive, self-guided walk. “It’s just to provide a little bit of an incentive for folks to get outside and be in the forest and be in nature,” Murdoch said.

“We have set up, in partnership with the Intervale Center, 11 stations so that people can go and adventure on a self-guided walk at their own pace, at their own leisure, with kids or adults, or alone. Can go out and read about animals that they would see -- very likely see on adventures out on the Intervale. There is a variety of wildlife species that call this their home, which is pretty magical how close we are to Burlington. And quite frankly, I had to narrow down all the species that we could have put because I only had so much time to make so many station markers,” said Alison Thomas, the education manager with Vermont Fish & Wildlife.

When you arrive at one of the 11 signs on the trail, you take your phone out and scan the QR code for an informational video to learn more about that animal. “It might be game camera footage of the species. There are four stations that have longer videos that are actually department created. So, those are 20-minute videos that you may want to hold up in your queue and not watch at the trail. But it’s a great way to connect and then maybe go home with your kids, or alone, and loop that information you saw and experienced on the trail and learn more about the species,” Thomas said.

Each of the 11 signs also has information about tracking that animal in the snow. “Wildlife are going to do the exact same thing people do -- use the easiest path possible. If there is this really nice trail going through the woods, they are going to use it. It takes less energy, but that’s cool because it means close by you are going to see places where there are tracks,” Thomas said.

She says it’s an outdoor activity that can also go past the walking path. “It’s good when you are looking for animal tracks to not just look for one little print but to unravel the story and to see how they are spending their time in the woods looking for food, water, shelter, what are they doing,” Thomas said.

On our walk, we saw the story of a fox walking near the tracks of a rabbit. “I would bet that’s a fox track. It’s very intentional. A dog is just a wing nut. They just don’t walk with intention, so this is a fox track,” Thomas explained.

The Calkins Loop Trail is less than a half-mile and parking is free. It’s a way to get outside and learn while being socially-distanced. “I think the power of being able to escape in the woods close to home, close to a city center is exponential. I can’t eloquently put into words how important I think that is for peoples’ souls,” Thomas said.

“Kids these days -- and everyone -- our eyes are burning off from looking at screens, so this is a way to get more green time as opposed to screen time,” Murdoch said.

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