Local waters thriving with wildlife
Have you heard the one about the eagle, the deer, the turkey, the otter and the osprey?
It’s no joke. Our local waters and the land around them are thriving with wildlife that from time to time shows to those who are paying attention.
I am heartened when I see animals that are not on our day-to-day radar, as it’s a signal that nature is holding its own despite human intrusion.
Seeing fish during a fishing trip is to be expected because my attention is riveted to the water and I’m lobbing lures that I know from experience will prompt them to react and show themselves.
Spotting other wildlife while fishing is a bonus. I observed the five species mentioned above within a single hour of a recent fishing trip. In 60 minutes, five animals normally considered rare or shy shared the air and water with me for a couple of minutes.
Over the years, I’ve also seen foxes, coyotes, beavers, many species of stalking shore birds and waterfowl, owls, snakes, giant snapping turtles, alligators, songbirds, raccoons and more. It’s a zoo out there.
Not so long ago, seeing an eagle was an alert-the-media event. Until recently, I had seen otters only in nature documentaries. Wild turkeys were so rare in Ohio that they were declared extinct here in 1904. Osprey sightings were limited to coastal regions, and the only deer most of us saw were the occasional nocturnal encounters in our cars’ headlight beams.
The animals my grandparents might never have seen in natural settings are these days, while not as common as squirrels and robins, much more likely to cross paths with us.
Our region’s lakes and rivers are the places where the odds are in our favor to see eagles, turkeys, otters and more.
All of this is good news for those of us who fish. Growing wildlife populations is a strong indicator that the environment and habitat are capable of sustaining life that requires lots of food and a minimum of hazard chemicals and other dangers.
When nature is bountiful and clean, the fish that swim in our waters also benefit. Bass, walleyes, crappies, bluegills, perch, muskies and catfish are all doing comparatively well in the waters where the eagles, deer and otters come to eat and drink.
We must not take any of this for granted.
While it’s great to see the current state of abundance among birds, fish, mammals and reptiles, we have no guarantee they will be as plentiful in the years ahead.
We cannot let our waters get as polluted as they were when municipal and industrial wastewater and mining run-off fouled them with toxic chemicals and other filth. We need to guard against overharvest and poaching.
We must address the situation in the western region of Lake Erie where agricultural fertilizers wash into the big lake and feed the massive blue-green algae blooms that choke out light and reduce the oxygen that western basin walleye, perch, smallmouth bass and other species require.
We must speak up when special interests ask legislators and regulators to relax the rules that have helped clear our water, our air and our landscapes.
Our lakes and rivers are doing well. It’s our obligation to keep them healthy.