Interview with Zachary Ispa-Landa

1. How did you gain your knowledge of wildlife in Burlington?

Through several different avenues… I spend time wandering the woods near my house (along the winooksi river), Centennial Woods, exploring the lake, and other natural (and not so natural) areas nearby. In the winter I like to go tracking and a lot can be learned about resident wildlife when there is good tracking conditions. I’ve also learned a lot by talking to other people/friends who are spend a lot of time tracking/birding/wandering, etc. and sharing stories. And I did the Field Naturalist program at UVM where we spent a lot time learning about the ecology and natural history of the region.

2. Does your work at UVM relate to the city’s wildlife in any way? If so, how?

I teach some classes that relate to wildlife… Wildlife Conservation (WFB 074) talks about wildlife directly and I’ve actually learned a lot about conservation by teaching that class though it’s a lecture-only class so we don’t spend much time outside. I also teach NR 206 which is a service learning class and students sometimes have wildlife related projects (for example, a group is doing a project this semester in which they are banding chickadees in centennial woods.)

3. Do you think there is a place for rewilding animals in the city of Burlington to increase biodiversity?

I don’t know… if you’re talking about large carnivores (the term ‘rewilding’ often is linked to efforts to reintroduce large carnivores into the landscape) then I don’t think the habitat currently exists here. We have some coyotes and bobcats but I think there’s barely just enough habitat for them. I’m not sure it’s possible to provide large carnivore habit IN the city of Burlington. But, I think connectivity and corridors are really important to think about. Even if we we can’t have large animals here, we should definitely be working to create connectivity between the larger natural areas nearby. That being said, I think it’s really important to maintain the green space we have in the city and to think about ways to make the city more wildlife friendly. There is a ton of wildlife in Burlington, and rewilding efforts could be focused on the animals we do have – and making sure they can survive and thrive — everything from fishers, minks, beavers, otters, bobcats, to monarch butterflies, pileated woodpeckers, eagles, native bees, great horned owls… the list goes on, and many species could be compromised if we start reducing the amount of green space in the city. Maintaining/creating things like pollinator gardens, hedgerows, big trees, snags, meadows, etc. could be an interesting topic for urban rewilding.

4. Are there any species you would like to see more of or make a come back?
Bobcats, mountain lions, wolves, bats…

5. Do you know of any attempts to increase wildlife in Burlington? If so, what?

All the efforts to maintain/increase green space… mapping existing wildlife

6. Do you foresee any challenges in trying to rewild Burlington?

Aside from the one mentioned already, when you’re talking about large carnivores, there would be huge backlash from the public who don’t want animals that could eat them, their pets, or their livestock anywhere near their homes or cities.

-Laura Stalter

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