MIKE BRAUN Few Ohio hunting rules change, except for otter season

The proposed hunting rules for 2005-06 in Ohio were released this past week by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife and the biggest change is one that was reported on this page several months ago.
The state is proposing to establish a river otter trapping season during which trappers will be able to take a limited number of otters within a very conservative framework in 43 counties.
Reintroduction program
The DOW began reintroducing river otters into Ohio in the late 1980s. Unregulated trapping and increased pollution of rivers led to the elimination of otters from the state by the mid-1800s, Ohio wildlife officials said.
It was an increase in the beaver population that gave state wildlife experts the idea to try to let the otters make a comeback here.
The DOW began scouting for adequate habitat in the mid-1980s, and the first of a number of otters were released during Christmas week in 1986.
Of the release sites where otters were placed, the Grand River Wildlife Area received 31 males and 17 females between 1986 and 1990; Killbuck Creek Wildlife Area got 15 males and eight females in 1991; Stillwater Creek received 15 males and 11 females in 1992; and the Little Muskingum River area was seeded with 15 males and 10 females in 1993.
Expanded range
The DOW said that their most recent observations have indicated that river otters have expanded their range from the initial release sites to include more than two-thirds of Ohio's watersheds. They said, however, that the number of otters occupying each watershed is still quite variable across the state.
The DOW said the information was an indication that otters are doing extremely well in expanding their range across Ohio.
Among the other hunting rules proposals made this week, Sept. 1 is again proposed as the kickoff date for the state's fall hunting seasons -- with the opening of squirrel, dove, Canada goose, teal, rail, moorhen and snipe hunting.
Other proposals
Other proposed hunting and trapping rules and season dates will be similar to those now in effect with only slight changes in next fall's dates.
There will be a separate wildlife council meeting on Feb. 9 to discuss possible changes to regulations governing white-tailed deer hunting. White-tailed deer is Ohio's most popular game animal.
Any modifications to deer hunting for next year will have to wait until the end of the archery season on Jan. 31. At that time, according to the DOW, state wildlife biologists will assess the 2004-05 season results. After that assessment, they will recommend modifications to current zone boundaries and bag limits for the 2005-06 season.
Those who would favor a chance to comment on the proposals can attend open houses on March 6 in each of the state's five wildlife district offices, including the District Three office at 912 Portage Lakes Drive in Akron. Directions to the meetings at the other district offices across the state are available by calling (800) WILDLIFE.
There will also be a statewide hearing on the proposed rules at 9 a.m. March 10 at the wildlife division's District One office, 1500 Dublin Road in Columbus. The Ohio Wildlife Council will follow the public input phase with a vote on the proposed rules and season dates at its April 6 meeting.

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