From the Stump: Long-gone animals returning to Ohio

Porcupine

From the Stump: Long-gone animals returning to Ohio

In many ways, Ohio is much wilder than it was during the mid-1900s.

Here’s an example of what I mean. I was walking along a creek in rural Hancock County one day in my young teens when I came across two deer.

I had never seen a deer around my hometown in northwestern Ohio. Humans had long ago driven them from Ohio, and the state had just begun the process of restocking them from other states.

I was so elated about what I had seen.

There were many other critters, once native to the state, that were missing or greatly reduced in numbers back then.

Now, they are abundant once again thanks to the efforts of the Ohio Division of Wildlife and private citizens. And in some cases, the animals simply wandered back into Ohio on their own.

Those animals include turkeys, trumpeter swans, river otters, peregrine falcons, osprey and blue birds, among others.

One of the greatest successes in Ohio was the return of bald eagles. When I began writing about wildlife in the 1980s, there were only four breeding pairs of eagles in the state, and all of them were located along the shores of Lake Erie.

John Switzer

The effort by the federal and state governments to control pesticides that prevented eagles from reproducing as well as the state protecting the few eagles we did have helped their numbers increase to more than 200 breeding pairs. That meant they could be taken off the state’s endangered species list.

I remember the days when I used to traipse around the Appalachian foothills in Ohio and would hear from folks there that they had seen black bears and bobcats.

State officials didn’t want to say bears were back in Ohio because they thought folks would freak out. Eventually, bears became so numerous that the state could no longer deny it.

Now, we live pretty well together, don’t you think?

That’s how coyotes and beaver came back to us. They just wanted to live here.

But what’s next for Ohio? Which animals will come back to make the state even wilder?

I called Michael Reynolds, a wildlife research administrator with the Ohio Division of Wildlife, who said there are two animals that appear to be on the verge of coming into northeastern Ohio from Pennsylvania.

One is the fisher, a medium–size carnivore with fur the color of chocolate. Fishers are members of the martin family and spend a lot of time in the trees.

The other is the porcupine.

Both species are being spotted every now and then along the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, Reynolds said.

Two other species I asked him about are the woods bison and the elk, which once lived in Ohio. He said there are no plans to bring them back into Ohio.

I guess you can’t have everything.

Retired weather columnist John Switzer writes a Sunday Metro column.

Originally posted by John Switzer at The Columbus Dispatch

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