ADDISON — The 17th annual Dead Creek Wildlife Day kicked into gear early on a gray and hazy morning. Blue skies arriving around mid morning on Saturday, Oct. 6, turned the day into one of the more beautiful ones the event has seen in recent years. Largely community-centered and family-oriented, the event is held each year at Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area off Route 17 in Addison, Vermont with the mission to educate, inform and encourage environmental and wildlife awareness.
Two large striped tents set up in the center of the event housed informational booths for an array of organizations. Activities offered included face painting, decoy carving and blue bird box building, while wildlife demonstrations occurred in the surrounding area and information sessions were held in the Dead Creek Headquarters.
Dead Creek Wildlife Day represents the organizational efforts of Warren King, Amy Alfieri and Nicole Meier, among others. They hope to emphasize the importance of getting outside and interacting with the environment and all it has to offer.
“Our goal is to sensitize people… by exposing them to a wide variety of activities for all ages,” said King, a conservationist and founding board member of Audubon Vermont, who has helped organize this event since its inception. He highlighted the importance of making more people aware of the wildlife resources available in the Champlain Valley.
An announcer outlined activities occurring every 30 minutes in order to feature all of the resources and their representation at the event. The Vergennes Boy Scouts provided food and further entertainment for attendees with a snack tent and raffle. All proceeds went to the organizations in attendance.
Veterans of Dead Creek Wildlife Day have their favorite activities.“We always go straight to the blue bird box building,” said one family who had been attending for the past four years. “It’s my daughter’s favorite part of the day. We make one or two every year and now we have so many that we’re going to start giving them to friends!”
A giant semi-circle began gathering at around 10 a.m. for the Warden Dog demonstration to watch Crockett — a Labrador retriever — track human scent. One of the most popular events for the past 10 or so years, this demonstration displayed the interactive nature of the event. In addition, a representative from the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum gave child-friendly talks, including displays of critters ranging from falcons to turtles, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., making clear the passion and dedication for wildlife education and awareness held by all of the volunteers and presenters.
While the event is catered towards families, there have been efforts each year to expand its offerings. Alfieri, the manager of Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area, explained that new activities have been added to keep up interest and provide more options for the “diverse crowd” and its “diversity of interests.” This year such activities included “Operation Game Thief Trailer,” “Beavers: A Sentry to Biodiversity” and “See it. Sketch it. Bird it.”
Jeff Whipple, a game warden from Orange County, was thrilled with the turnout. His project, the Operation Game Thief Trailer, displayed examples of anything involving illegal wildlife, including a photo with information about infamous poachers in Vermont and an $8,000 gun used in an illegal killing. Whipple does five to six events with his trailer each year, but said that the number of people at the Dead Creek Wildlife Day surpassed that of all of his other events. His goal with each event is to highlight illegal poaching and to make clear its perverse effects to hunters and non-hunters alike. “We’re really trying to pull on people’s emotions,” he said.
Several Middlebury College students also attended the event, some of whom brought their families for a Fall Family Weekend affair.
“The best part was being able to connect with the local environment through all the activities and getting a better sense of the place we live in,” said Jacob Freedman ’21. In particular, he enjoyed seeing the “infectious smiles [of the] young kids holding a purple finch and chickadee during the Bird Banding Demonstration.”
About a 15-minute drive from Middlebury, the event is an ideal getaway for students and families in the area. King appreciated the presence of a handful of students and said if he were to have it his way, Environmental Science professors at the college would make the event mandatory, or at least recommended, in the coming years.
“It has become increasingly important today to provide opportunities for people to interact with and learn about the environment,” said Alfieri. And that is exactly what this event strives to do. Bringing together people from the Addison County community as well as surrounding areas of Vermont and New York to, Dead Creek Wildlife Day aims to raise awareness and create a community of people who appreciate the outdoors.