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MIKE BRAUN Predators, raptors make a comeback



Published: Sat, February 19, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Who could have thought that an urbanized state like Ohio would have the type of news that came out of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife recently.

Three press releases were issued recently dealing with three species of wild animals, and the news was all positive.

First up, the DOW reported that Ohio's bald eagle nesting season had officially begun with the incubation of eggs by a breeding pair of our national symbol on a nest in Huron County.

"The eagle pair began sitting on the eggs at the end of the first week of February and wildlife biologists anticipate the eggs will hatch sometime in mid-March," the release stated.

Furthermore, the DOW had previously reported that Ohio was seeing "near-record numbers" of the raptor when it conducted its annual mid-winter eagle survey. The division went so far as to guess that in 2005 there would be more eagle nests in Ohio than there was in 2004.

55 in 88 counties

Amazingly, the survey found eagles in 55 of Ohio's 88 counties. That is an astounding number, especially given than in the lifetime of many of you reading this column, there were no eagles in Ohio. None, zip, zilch, nada.

"Last year, a milestone of more than 100 nesting pairs of eagles was recorded in the state," said Steven A. Gray, chief of the Division of Wildlife. "We are looking forward to another successful nesting season."

Ohio's bald eagle population grew from only four nesting pairs along the southwestern Lake Erie shore 26 years ago to a record 108 eagle nests in 2004. Those pairs produced 127 young.

According to the division, there are active nests in the following 37 Ohio counties: Ashtabula (3), Coshocton (1); Crawford (1); Defiance (2); Delaware (1); Erie (10); Geauga (3); Guernsey (1); Hancock (1); Hardin (1); Harrison (1); Henry (1); Holmes (1); Huron (2); Knox (3); Lake (1); Lorain (2); Lucas (5); Mahoning (2); Marion (1); Mercer (1); Morgan (1); Muskingum (1); Noble (1); Ottawa (16); Portage (3); Putnam (1); Richland (1); Ross (3); Sandusky (15); Seneca (5); Summit (1); Trumbull (6); Tuscarawas (1); Wayne (1); Wood (4) and Wyandot (7).

The division is also on the lookout for previously undiscovered nests and urges those who may have seen one to report it. The DOW can be reached online at www.dnr.state.oh.us/wildlife/default.htm or by calling (330) 644-2293.

No Goldilocks tale

We go from the air to the bear for our next positive animal tale.

As many in our own neck of the woods can attest to, bear sightings were way up in 2004.

There were 91 black bear sightings reported in 21 Ohio counties last year with state wildlife personnel confirming 46 of those sightings, more than double the confirmed sightings from the previous year.

Those 46 confirmed sightings were in 16 counties -- including Trumbull -- and involved about 16 different black bears, the Division of Wildlife reported. Several bear sightings in the Liberty and Girard area in the late spring and early summer kept wildlife officers and area law enforcement busy for a few days. There were unconfirmed sightings in Mahoning County, as well.

It isn't known, and probably not likely that Ohio has a breeding population of bears. The logical source for all these bears is Pennsylvania.

That state has a breeding population as well as a hunting season. What we are seeing in Ohio, according to our own state biologists, is a bear overflow from the Keystone State.

What happens is that juvenile bears are turned out by momma bear and search for their own territory. Or, if there are too many bears in a given area, some move on to more vacant property. Ohio, with no or few bears claiming the land, is prime territory.

Most of the 21 counties with bear sightings are in northeastern and southeastern Ohio -- close to or not a far stretch from the Pennsylvania border. According to DOW reports, Trumbull County topped the state with a reported 17 sightings, while Ashtabula and Geauga counties followed with 12 and 10 sightings, respectively. These were all single bears with no reported sightings of sows with cubs.

Here kitty, kitty

Finally, while the time of the predator feline is basically all but over in Ohio, one cat apparently hasn't gotten the message.

The DOW reported recently that there is evidence of bobcats living in Ohio's eastern and southeastern counties. Confirmation of that fact comes from the confirmed sighting of 14 such animals in 2004, an increase of four over the number of confirmed sightings made in 2003.

The bobcat's tale is a familiar one for Ohio. The state's agricultural past, including cleared fields, forests and woods, and the elimination of some game populations all but exterminated a lot of animals, including to bobcat, from Ohio's landscape by the 1850s.

According to the DOW, "a handful of unverified sightings in the 1960s marked the bobcat's unofficial return to Ohio. Since 1970, state wildlife biologists have verified 74 bobcat sightings in 32 counties."

Verification of the elusive bobcat includes photographs of the animal and its tracks; encounters through incidental trapping, from which animals are later released; recovery of road kill or sightings by Division of Wildlife personnel, the division explained.

If you happen to come across any of these animals do not try to interact with them. Eagles are federally protected and bears and bobcats are protected by state law.

How to help

If you do want to have some effect on the populations of these animals, the best way is through the state's income tax check-off program for Wildlife Diversity and Endangered Species, or by purchasing an Ohio conservation license plate. Both programs have been a blessing for these animals as funds collected have enabled the state to continue work on all three species.

Contributions to the fund can be made by checking line 24 on form 1040 or line 16 on the EZ form on the 2004 state income tax form. License plates can be purchased through a deputy registrar license outlet, on the Internet at oplates.com, or by calling the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles at (888) PLATES3.

braun@vindy.com




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