Wildlife Communities

The town of Williston lies at many crossroads – from its biogeographical location between the Champlain Valley and Green Mountains, to its role as a major transportation corridor between populated areas of the State. In many ways, Williston is also located at a “wildlife” crossroads both spatially and temporally. From the bobcat to the bobolink, the fauna of Williston lie at a spatial crossroads – an intersection that extends beyond town borders. To the east lies relatively intact forest habitat along the Green Mountains – a reservoir of animal populations, such as moose and bear. To the west is situated the largest developed area in Vermont. Within the town itself, wildlife habitat is largely defined in relationship to I-89. The area south of the highway is largely rural and undeveloped, and provides suitable habitat for everything up to larger mammals, such as the bobcat. Conversely, habitat north of I-89 is significantly more fragmented – which limits the variety of wildlife.

Perhaps equally important as the spatial crossroads is the temporal crossroads that at which Williston’s wildlife now lies. The town of Williston has experienced tremendous economic and population growth during recent years. For many native wildlife species this has created a more fragmented landscape. While it is uncertain just how fragmented the Williston landscape will be in the future, it is certain, however, that Williston residents will play an important role in determining the shape of that future landscape.

Williston is fortunate that the town’s wildlife has been researched in detail. In 2005, the University of Vermont’s Spatial Analysis Laboratory published “An Assessment of Wildlife Habitat in Williston, Vermont” for several key habitat areas of the town. This report is invaluable for learning about the species present on the landscape, and some of the habitat they use. In addition, several reports have been completed on the ecological characteristics (including wildlife) of particular Williston field sites, including Mud Pond, Five Tree Hill, Brownell Mountain, and others. Another source of wildlife information for Williston is the organization Keeping Track, which organizes volunteers to track the movements of large mammals around Vermont. Because so much excellent work has already been done describing some of the broader trends of wildlife in Williston, this page instead narrows in on a few representative aspects of the Williston landscape.

Sometimes in wildlife studies and surveys, less can be more. Instead of researching, studying, and tracking every single species that may be present on the landscape, it can be beneficial to select focal species – species that capture representative elements of the ecological patterns and processes of a landscape. Two wildlife focal species and one wildlife focal-species group were chosen to assess town-wide habitat and connectivity in Williston: bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus), bobcoat (Lynx rufus) and the broad group of amphibians. These species target several habitats of special value, assess connectivity on several scales, and can generate public interest in the wildlife and habitat found in Williston.