Wildlife Watch: Discovering the Moose Bog

FERDINAND, Vt. (WCAX) A special wildlife watching spot in the Northeast Kingdom is now easier to access.

Cat Viglienzoni met up with Vermont Fish & Wildlife's Doug Morin to learn about the Moose Bog Trail trail and boardwalk project at the Wenlock Wildlife Management Area .

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: Tell me a little bit about why this. Why go with this out here?

Doug Morin: Sure. So this was a really popular spot, and it has been for decades now, particularly in the birding community because you can get spruce grouse, black-backed woodpecker, grey jay and boreal chickadee, which are four northern birds that you can catch just on the southern edge of their range here in the Northeast Kingdom. And this spot is kind-of the best way to see a number of those at once. In addition to that, we have this beautiful wetland complex. We have all the cottongrass that's blooming right now, there's pitcher plants, there's just a lot of nature observation to happen here. It's right near the road, it's not far from Island Pond. It's a nice accessible location for people to have and for us to have this more developed infrastructure.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: And I understand it wasn't just as simple as putting in the trail though. You wanted to make this ADA compliant in the best way you could.

Doug Morin: That's right. The original trail here was actually an old logging road that came over here on the hillside, and it cut down and we just threw some planks along the wetland. And after many, many years of increasing use in the area, we decided that it really needed to be upgraded. We decided that it could take a formal boardwalk that would actually float with the wetland and not impact it and allow more people to come out and see it. And while we were doing those improvements, we decided it was such an accessible site, we could really increase the ability of everyone to use it by making it universally accessible.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: Why is that important, to make sure that not just someone who is, we'll say able-bodied, can go in?

Doug Morin: Sure. Well, it's just a rare experience in this area. And we have some of these huge chunks of land. But they're all covered in roads and then it's just forests. And so it can be hard for people to get out and enjoy the beautiful spots we have. So this one being fairly close, fairly accessible, we thought it was a good fit for that and it would give people the ability to come out and see this really beautiful view that we're at now.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: It is a beautiful view -- I mean, just gorgeous. Talk about what makes this spot unique.

Doug Morin: Sure. So we have the open water here, which is not unlike many ponds you might see. But around the outside of the whole open water we have what people would call a bog or a fen complex. It's actually sphagnum moss, so if you stood on this, it would sink down like a bowl of Jello. And we have growing in this a number of rare bog plants. So the cottongrass is the white tufts you see blooming now. But there are pitcher plants you can see down in the red, which are one of Vermont's carnivorous plants. There's a variety of different sphagnum mosses. We have tamarac or larch, the tree growing here. And then a number of these small shrubs that really only grow in this kind of habitat. So having a boardwalk out here allows school groups and anyone else to come if they want to see this kind of habitat. It's a nice place to view it.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: And I understand having a boardwalk here kind of protects that habitat from hikers, walkers, school groups -- anyone who might come out here and accidentally trample vegetation.

Doug Morin: Absolutely. So it's a very sensitive kind of habitat because it is so soft. So with a large group or even multiple uses of single people, you can kind of make your own little trench straight through it. Which is why we have this floating platform. It protects all the vegetation.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: We mentioned birds earlier. What kinds of other animals can people expect to see here? We spotted a little snake on our way in!

Doug Morin: Sure. We spotted a snake. There's a number of reptiles and frogs and amphibians you might catch. Certainly the iconic moose. This is Moose Bog after all. This would be a nice place to see a moose feeding in the wetlands, which is one of the things they like to do, cooling down in the wet areas.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: And you mentioned these are state lands. Talk about what that means for people then.

Doug Morin: Absolutely. So the parcel we're on right now is about 200 acres. But it directly adjoins a 22,000 acre parcel that is also state-owned. And it's within this block of almost 200,000 acres of land that is either state or federally owned, or has a public access agreement on it. The department has -- I think it's about 90 -- wildlife management areas that are all accessible to the public, year-round, for any wildlife-based use like hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography -- anything like that.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: Absolutely -- so people can come on out.

Doug Morin: Absolutely.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: All right, Doug, thank you for your time today.

Doug Morin: Thank you.