FOREST WILDLIFE OVERVIEW
Gray and Fox Squirrel
American Burying Beetle
Ohio's forests have undergone dramatic changes since the late 1700s (presettlement), a time when nearly 95% of Ohio was forested. Rapid settlement of the Ohio countryside resulted in a steady decline of forest cover to a low of 12% in 1940. This massive loss of forest habitat was instrumental in the extirpation of many animals from Ohio including white-tailed deer, elk, timber wolf, mountain lion, black bear, bobcat, and wild turkey. Others, like the passenger pigeon, became extinct. Settlement also resulted in the introduction of exotic diseases such as Dutch elm disease and chestnut blight. These diseases inflicted heavy mortality on the American elm, resulted in the demise of the American chestnut, and altered the composition of Ohio's remnant forests.
Ohio's forest land has been increasing since 1940 and, as of 2001, comprised approximately 33% of the state's land area. This represents a 2.5-fold increase over 61 years and has been the major factor leading to the successful reintroduction, return, or resurgence of many forest-dependent species like deer, wild turkey, beaver, and black bear.
Although forest land has increased dramatically, there are still wide differences in the amount of forest cover among the geographic regions of the state. In the western glaciated farmland region, most counties are <15% forested, with much of the forest occurring in small isolated patches of 20 acres or less. The northeastern glaciated counties average 30% forest cover and most are heavily urbanized. The east-central, southeastern, and south-central unglaciated counties (hill country) are the most heavily forested. Forest cover in these counties ranges from 35-80%. This distributionof forest land is a key determinant of the distribution and abundance of Ohio's forest wildlife. Species like fox squirrel and other forest edge species require, and can prosper in, the patchy woodlot habitats of western Ohio. Forest interior birds, like the cerulean warbler, that are area sensitive, require the relatively large, contiguous expanses of forest present in the unglaciated hill country. Ohio's forests are changing in other ways as well; they are maturing and their composition is changing. The recent increase in Ohio's forest land was due primarily to the reversion of abandoned pasture to brush and ultimately mature forest in eastern Ohio. This brushy stage of forest succession is declining as Ohio's forests mature (there was a >80% decline in the seedling-sapling stage from 1968 to 2001). As a consequence, we can expect species like the ruffed grouse and yellow-breasted chat that require early successional habitats to decline and those requiring more mature forest types like hooded warblers and wild turkey to increase.
Forest composition is also changing. Forests once dominated by oak and hickory are becoming increasingly dominated by red maple. Acorns and hickory nuts are staple foods of many forest wildlife species. Consequently, as forest composition shifts from oak and hickory dominance to red maple, declines in mast-dependent forest wildlife species are likely.
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Ohio’s first modern day deer hunting season was held in 1943. Since that time, season closure, either-sex, buck-only, antlerless-only, and multiple bag limit regulations have been used to manage our deer herd. While deer harvests and populations have grown and management strategies and landscapes have evolved since 1943, the goal of our deer program has remained the same: a deer population that maximizes recreational opportunity including viewing, photographing, and hunting while minimizing conflicts with agriculture, motor travel, and other areas of human endeavor. In short, we attempt to provide enough deer to hunt and enjoy, within limits defined by the habitat, but not so many that they cause undue human hardship. This is accomplished by annually comparing a county’s deer population status with its corresponding population objective, or target level. Consistent with the Division of Wildlife’s (DOW) deer management goal, these target levels represent minimum conflict levels, derived from either deer-vehicle accident (DVAs) rates in urban counties or farmer tolerances in rural counties.
Population and Harvest Surveys
Because of the secretiveness and mobility of the white-tailed deer, which varies both seasonally and with the age and sex of the animal, harvest data are used in combination with deer herd demographic and condition data collected each fall to monitor the status of the herd. Additionally, data from annual bowhunter and deer hunter surveys provide regional and statewide deer population trend data. To a much lesser degree, trends in crop damage complaints may provide some insight into population trends at the local level.
Harvest—Since 1962, Ohio hunters have been required by law to register their deer at an official check station where information such as date, county of harvest, sex of deer, hunting implement used, and permit type are recorded. A total of 252,017 deer was harvested during the 2008-09 hunting seasons, 8% more than the previous season. During the 2008-09 deer hunting seasons, hunters harvested 134,231 deer during gun, 85,856 deer during archery, 20,966 deer during muzzleloader, and 9,699 deer during the youth hunts. For historical deer harvest data see Publication 304.
Deer Age, Sex, and Condition—Each year during the gun season, DOW personnel will age approximately 5-7% of the harvest. Typically, this amounts to between 6,000-8,000 deer. A total of 5,938 deer was examined at 21 check stations in 2008. For historical deer age-sex-condition data see Publication 304.
Deer-vehicle Accidents—Because they represent a significant cost to the public, the DOW has monitored deer-vehicle accident trends since the 1940s. Additionally, if changes in traffic volume can be accounted for, and there is little annual variation in reporting rates, deer-vehicle accident trends should be a reflection of changes in the actual size of the deer herd. For historical deer-vehicle accident data see Publication 304.
Deer Crop Damage Complaints—Because target levels for most of Ohio’s counties are based on farmer tolerances, the likelihood of widespread agricultural problems should be minimal when deer populations are at target. However, some localized crop damage is still likely to occur and in these instances producers may be eligible for a Deer Damage Control permit. For historical deer damage complaint and kill permit data see Publication 304.
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The ruffed grouse, an inhabitant of extensively forested areas, is a long-time Ohio resident dating back to the Ice Age. Prior to European settlement, both forests and grouse occupied about 95% of Ohio's land surface. By 1940, forest land had been reduced to 12% of Ohio's land area; grouse became greatly reduced in eastern Ohio and were totally absent from western Ohio by 1908. Abandonment of hill farms in eastern Ohio during the period 1930-1950 resulted in the gradual reversion of farmland to brush and forest. This reforestation helped bring grouse populations back so that today they can be found in 40 eastern Ohio counties.
Grouse abundance, while fluctuating dramatically, has generally been declining since the early 1970s. From 1983 to the present, grouse abundance has been consistently low and averaged well below the long-term mean. The reason for this decline is thought to be loss of quality habitat. A rapid increase in quality grouse habitat occurred in eastern Ohio through the early 1970s as abandoned farms reverted to brush. Since then, good quality grouse habitat has declined as brushland has grown to more mature forest. U.S. Forest Service inventories show an 80% decline in the seedling/sapling (brushland) size class from 1968 to 2001. Overall, timber growth exceeds harvest in Ohio's grouse range and timber harvesting has been insufficient to halt the successional trend away from quality grouse habitat and toward more mature forests. This, coupled with possible regional influences (grouse populations in neighboring states exhibit trends similar to Ohio's), is probably responsible for the consistently low abundance experienced since the early 1980s.
Population and Harvest Surveys
Roadside Drumming Counts—Routes consist of 10 listening stops spaced at least 0.5 mile apart. Routes are run on 2 nonconsecutive days between ½ hour before and 1 hour after sunrise. Observers record all grouse heard and/or seen as well as the total number of drums during a 4-minute listening period at each stop. In order to minimize the effect of weather, the survey is not conducted during heavy rain or when the wind exceeds 8 mph. Routes are conducted in 37 counties and results are summarized range wide as grouse heard per 100 stops. Historical data can be found in the Grouse Spring Population Table.
Grouse Hunter Cooperator Results—Approximately 300 cooperators are mailed a "Grouse Hunting Diary" just prior to the Ohio ruffed grouse season. The list of cooperators remains quite constant from year to year, although a few new cooperators are added annually to replace those no longer wishing to participate in the survey. Hunters are instructed to keep a record of their grouse hunting trips by recording the date, county, hours hunted, grouse flushed, and grouse harvested in their hunting diary. Hunters are also instructed to not count reflushes or birds flushed by others in their hunting party. Immediately following the close of the grouse season, cooperators are sent a diary recall notice. Those not responding to the initial recall are sent a second notice after approximately 3 weeks. Summaries of total gun hours, flushes per hour, and harvest per hour are obtained for county, region, and total occupied range. Detailed information and historical data can be found in the Grouse Fall Population Table.
Cooperative Grouse Observation Reports—Ruffed grouse were added to the wild turkey observation report cards in 1999 to obtain an index of reproductive success. June, July, and August observations are summarized by county and township, observation date, and number of adult and young grouse. Data collected since 1999 can be found in the Grouse Summer Population Table.
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Black bear remains have been recovered from Indian mounds and other excavations throughout Ohio. Old historical records of settlers and naturalists also indicate widespread occurrence before 1850. Bears were still reasonably common in southern Ohio in 1820 with 46 reported killed in Athens County during that winter. Continued habitat destruction resulting from human settlement accompanied by shooting and trapping of bears to protect crops and livestock resulted in their extirpation from Ohio. The last bear reported from southern Ohio was from Jackson County in 1831. In northern Ohio, the last report was of a bear killed in Paulding County in 1881. Occasional reports of black bears occurred in the early-mid 1900s. Beginning in the 1980s, sightings of black bear in northeastern and eastern Ohio became more common as bear populations in Pennsylvania and West Virginia increased in abundance and expanded westward.
Black Bear Observations—Since 1993, the Division of Wildlife has formally documented black bear observations in Ohio. This procedure provides for standardized documentation of bear observations as bears travel and establish residency in Ohio. Division employees are to investigate, attempt to confirm reported bear sightings, and complete a “Black Bear Observation Report.” The report includes the following information: date of sighting; location; initial observer; number of bears; their age, sex (if known), estimated weight; behavior; last known fate of the bear; and whether the report could be confirmed. A confirmed report is one where there are tracks, photos, or other reliable evidence that provided the Division of Wildlife investigator with reasonable assurance that a bear was present. A code number is assigned to the initial observation. All subsequent reports of what are believed to be the same bear are given the code number of the initial sighting. Black bear sighting data collected since 1993 are presented in the Bear Population Table.
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Bobcats were found throughout the Ohio country in early settlement times. They were concentrated primarily in the large, lowland areas of the north and unglaciated Allegheny Plateau region of the southeastern portion of the state. As forests were cleared and swamps and lowlands drained to make way for settlements and cropland, the bobcat population declined. By 1850, they were considered extirpated from the state. From 1850 through the 1960s, there were occasional reports of bobcats, mainly in eastern Ohio. Since 1970, there have been 464 verified reports of bobcats in Ohio, 436 (94%) of which occurred since 2000. In general, bobcats showed the first signs of recovery in Ohio in the 1990s, after which numbers of sightings have steadily increased. See Bobcat Population Table for annual numbers of verified and unverified bobcat sightings. Currently, the bobcat is officially classified as an Ohio endangered species and provided full protection under the law.
In 1997, a project was initiated by the Division to systematically monitor the status of bobcats in Ohio. This project consisted of 2 main elements: (1) initiating surveys to monitor the current status and distribution, and (2) continuing to investigate and record verified reports of bobcats as they are received.
Verified Reports—These reports represent positive identification of a bobcat, usually as a result of the animal either being killed on the road, photographed, or incidentally trapped. In situations where the bobcat carcass is available, the age, weight, reproductive status of females, and various body measurements are obtained. This provides information regarding the health and reproductive status of Ohio’s recovering bobcat population.
Unverified Reports—Bobcat reports are received from a number of different sources. The annual Bowhunter Survey is conducted by the Waterloo Wildlife Research Station. In November, volunteer deer archery hunters report their observations of various wildlife, including bobcats, while deer hunting. Approximately 50,000 observation hours are logged annually. Additionally, a number of observations by the public are received via email (WildInfo@dnr.state.oh.us), 1-800-WILDLIFE, and Endangered/Uncommon Species Observation Cards.
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Gray and Fox Squirrel
Prior to settlement, the gray squirrel was abundant across the entire state. Gray squirrels were apparently so numerous and such a menace to crops that taxpayers were required to pay a quota of squirrel scalps in addition to their regular taxes in 1807. By 1940, Ohio’s forests had been reduced from 25 million acres to 3.7 million acres. The gray squirrel, which requires large, relatively unbroken expanses of forest, was virtually eliminated from the western and northeastern portions of the state where forest land had been reduced to small, isolated woodlots. Today, primary gray squirrel range is limited to the unglaciated hill country.
The fox squirrel is not native to Ohio, but historically occurred in the oak savannas of the humid prairie region. However, as early settlers cleared forestland in Ohio, they created a patchwork of agricultural fields and small tracts of timber (woodlots) favorable to fox squirrels. As settlement expanded westward across Indiana and into the humid prairies, fox squirrels moved eastward into this new habitat. Fox squirrels first occurred in western Ohio about 1830 and reached the eastern boundaries of Trumbull and Ashtabula counties about 1885. Today, the fox squirrel is found in all of Ohio’s 88 counties. In primary gray squirrel habitat, fox squirrels represent approximately 15% of the total squirrel population.
Oak-hickory forests are capable of supporting the highest densities of squirrels in Ohio. Densities in these habitats average about 1 squirrel per acre in mature timber stands and are due primarily to the abundance of favored squirrel foods, especially acorns and hickory nuts. Other forest types are capable of supporting both squirrel species, but at lower densities.
The amount of forested habitat in primary fox and gray squirrel ranges increased markedly in the past century, but the total acreage of oak-hickory forest has remained unchanged since 1979. Concerns over the conversion of oak-hickory to forests dominated by maple and tulip poplar have prompted research into new silvicultural systems that provide for oak regeneration in Ohio forests.
Population and Harvest Surveys
Squirrel Hunter Survey—Each year, we mail squirrel hunting diaries and nut crop rating forms to cooperators just prior to the Ohio squirrel season. Despite annual fluctuations, long-term harvest trends suggest that Ohio’s squirrel population has remained relatively stable across both the primary fox and gray squirrel ranges (see Squirrel Harvest Table and Squirrel Hunter Success Figure). However, squirrel hunter numbers have declined approximately 20% since the late 1970s and early 1980s.
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The wild turkey once inhabited forested areas in every Ohio county and was an important food source for the early settlers. Extensive loss of forest, coupled with unregulated hunting, led to the extirpation of the wild turkey in 1904.
By 1950, large tracts of forest land had returned to southeastern Ohio. From 1952-1957, the Division of Wildlife reared 1,400 game farm turkeys and released them in several southeastern forests. Attempts to establish a turkey population using game farm birds failed. From 1956-1963, wild turkeys trapped in West Virginia, Kentucky, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, and Florida were transplanted into Ohio. In state trapping and transplanting of wild turkeys was conducted from 1963-2006. In spring 2008, Ohio's wild turkey population was estimated to number 200,000 birds. Wild turkeys are once again present in all of Ohio's 88 counties.
Population and Harvest Surveys
Spring Turkey Harvest—Since the first spring turkey hunting season in 1966, Ohio has used a mandatory registration system to determine hunter harvest (see the Turkey Spring Harvest Table). Checking stations are established in each county and hunters are required by law to register their bird by 2:00 p.m. on the day of harvest. Check station data provide relatively precise information such as total harvest, harvest by county, harvest by permit holder type, proportion of juvenile and adult turkeys in the harvest, daily and weekly distribution of harvest, and hunter effort. These data are used to determine turkey distribution and abundance, evaluate success of stocking efforts, evaluate performance of hunting regulations, and provide the basis for future hunting season recommendations.
Fall Turkey Harvest—Fall either-sex wild turkey hunting was initiated in 1996. Counties with at least 20% forest cover, a spring gobbler harvest of 200 or more birds for at least 2 consecutive years, and adjacent to at least 2 other open counties are open to fall turkey hunting. Historical fall harvest data are presented in the Turkey Fall Harvest Table.
Roadside Gobbling Counts—This annual survey provides an index to breeding abundance of turkey throughout Ohio's occupied range. Routes consist of 10 listening stops spaced at least 0.5 mile apart. Routes are repeated on 2 non-consecutive days between ½ hour before and 1 hour after sunrise. Observers record turkeys heard and/or seen as well as the total number of gobbles heard during a 4 minute listening period at each stop. Additionally, turkeys seen between stops are recorded. In order to minimize the effect of weather, the survey is not conducted during heavy rain or when the wind exceeds 8 mph. Historical data are presented in the Turkey Spring Population Table.
Cooperative Turkey Observation Reports—Since 1962, wild turkey observation cards have been distributed to Division of Wildlife personnel, park rangers, foresters, and other interested individuals frequenting Ohio's turkey range. Reports are summarized by county and township, observation date, and turkey sex and age. June, July, and August observations of hens and young are summarized to provide an annual index (young per hen) to reproductive success. Historical data are presented in Turkey Summer Population Table.
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Acorns are an important food source for many forest wildlife species. Numerous studies have linked the abundance of acorn mast crops to body condition, winter survival, and reproductive success of wildlife including white-tailed deer, wild turkey, black bears, gray squirrels, and ruffed grouse. This information is helpful to hunters to locate good areas that may improve hunting success.
In late summer – early fall 2010, the 6th annual acorn mast survey was successfully completed on 38 wildlife areas throughout Ohio. Results showed that an average of 59.4% white oaks and 74.5% red oaks bore fruit (Table 1). White oak acorn production increased on 31 (82%) Wildlife Areas compared to 2009. Similarly, most Wildlife Areas reported an increase in red oak (n = 29; 76.3%) acorn production compared to the previous year. Overall, there was a 32.9% and 33.1% increase for white and red oaks, respectively, in the number of trees bearing acorns in 2010 relative to 2009. Last fall represented the highest percentage of fruit-bearing white and red oaks recorded over the past 6 years (Fig. 1).
The mast survey procedure was modified during 2007 to provide an indication of acorn relative abundance on survey trees. In addition to determining presence or absence of acorns, observers estimated the percentage of each tree’s crown that was covered with acorns. Average acorn crown coverage of white oaks was 23.9% in 2010 as compared to 5.2% in 2009. Average acorn crown coverage of red oaks increased from 12.7% in 2009 to 36.8% in 2010 (Table 2). Crown coverage exhibited a similar pattern as that of the percentage of trees producing acorns (Fig. 2).
2013 Mast Survey Results
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Approximately 175 bird species nest in Ohio and about 100 of these species are dependent on some stage of forested habitat. Changing patterns of land use have altered the distribution of forested habitats and the abundance of forest nesting birds in Ohio. Forest fragmentation has been associated with reductions in abundance and distribution of birds throughout the Midwestern United States. Species restricted to the interiors of mature woodlands may disappear from fragmented forests or suffer high rates of nest predation or parasitism by the brown-headed cowbird. Species dependent on early successional habitats have declined as Ohio’s forests have matured into sawtimber size classes. Various other factors, including West Nile Virus, extreme weather conditions during the nesting season, and loss of habitat on the wintering grounds, continue to influence population levels of forest birds.
Ohio’s forest bird species are monitored by the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS). This continental survey is cooperatively coordinated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service. Data have been collected in a standardized manner on nearly 3,000 routes since 1966. The BBS is a roadside survey conducted on permanent routes annually in June. Routes are 24.5 miles long and have 50 stops spaced at 0.5-mile intervals. Surveys start one-half hour before local sunrise and last for 4 to 4.5 hours. All birds seen or heard during a 3-minute observation period at each stop are recorded. Data are summed over all stops for each route by species. Representative forest songbirds with reasonable data for Ohio include the cerulean warbler, scarlet tanager, Acadian flycatcher, yellow-breasted chat, and blue-winged warbler.
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American Burying Beetle
The American burying beetle, also commonly referred to as a carrion beetle, was once distributed throughout Ohio as well as in 34 other states, the District of Columbia, and 3 Canadian provinces. The last American burying beetle reported in Ohio was in 1974 near Old Man's Cave in Hocking County. The American burying beetle was listed as a state and federally endangered species in 1989.
Although this is the largest beetle of its kind, smaller members of the genus Nicrophorus remain widespread and abundant in the U.S. The American burying beetle has declined throughout the 20th century and today can only be found in the wild in Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and on a small island off the coast of Rhode Island. Successful reintroduction has returned the beetle to 2 Massachusetts islands (Penikese and Nantucket).
About 1.5 inches long, the American burying beetle can be identified by its striking, distinctive coloring. Its body is shiny black, and on its wing covers are 4 scalloped, orange-red markings. Smaller relatives look similar but most distinctively, the American burying beetle has an orange-red marking on its pronotum, the large shield-like area just behind the head. The American burying beetle has an orange facial marking and orange tips on the antennae. The beetles are strong fliers, moving as far as 1.5 miles a night.
Current information suggests this species is a habitat generalist, living in many types of habitat, but with a slight preference for grasslands and the open understory of oak-hickory forests. However, the beetles are carrion (animals which are dead) specialists in that they need a carcass the size of a dove or chipmunk in order to raise their young. Carrion availability may be a key factor to where the species can prosper.
Highly unusual for an insect, both the male and female burying beetles take part in raising the young. Male burying beetles often locate carcasses and then attract a mate. Beetles often fight over the carcass, with the largest male and female individuals usually winning. The victors bury the carcass, the pair mates and the female lays her eggs in an adjacent tunnel. Within a few days, the larvae develop and both parents feed and tend to the young. The average brood size is 12-15 but ranges from 1-30 young.
The larvae spend about a week in the tunnel being fed by their parents then move to the adjacent carcass where they feed and then crawl into the soil to pupate (develop into adults). Mature American burying beetles emerge from the soil in 45-60 days after their parents initially bury the carcass. Adult burying beetles live for just 1 year. They are secretive nocturnal insects that are seldom seen by people.
Reasons for the decline and disappearance of American burying beetle are unclear and speculation has ranged from increased competition and predation by scavenging mammals to prevalence of outdoor lighting and habitat disruption including increased use of insecticides.
Since 1993, the Division of Wildlife, in cooperation with entomologists at The Ohio State University, has been intensively surveying for remnant populations of the American burying beetle in Ohio. Unfortunately, this intensive sampling effort using carrion-baited pitfall traps failed to uncover any American burying beetles.
The first mainland reintroduction of the American burying beetle to its native habitat in the U.S. occurred in Ohio. In July 1998, 35 pairs of beetles were collected from the wild at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas in cooperation with the Oklahoma Biological Survey. The beetles were flown to Ohio and immediately placed under protective covers with fresh carrion on public land in southeastern Ohio. A total of 102 wild-caught beetles from Arkansas were released from 1998-2000. While no releases occurred during 2001 and 2002, intensive pitfall trapping surveys occurred to locate previously released beetles. Eighty pitfall traps baited with putrid chicken were installed in 8 linear transects of 10 traps, 4 different times for 1 night each during 2002. Traps contained numerous Nicrophorus species but no American burying beetles were captured. In 2002, a captive colony of beetles, representing only the second in the country, was established with our Ohio State University (OSU) partners in this endeavor. As a result, 98 pairs of captively reared beetles were released on public lands in southeastern Ohio in July 2003. An additional 78 pairs were released in July 2004. In June 2005, 140 pairs of captively reared beetles were released from the OSU colony. In June 2006, 193 pairs of captively reared beetles and 6 males were released from colonies at OSU and the St. Louis Zoo. 127 pairs of captively reared beetles were released in June 2007 from the St. Louis Zoo colony. An additional 228 pairs were released in 2008 from the OSU and St Louis Zoo colonies. In June 2009, 448 pairs of captively reared beetles were released from the OSU, St. Louis Zoo and The Wilds colonies. This was the highest number of beetle pairs released and the first year beetles were produced and released from three captive colonies. 80 pairs of captively-reared beetles from the OSU and the St. Louis Zoo colonies were released on public land in Southeastern Ohio in June 2010.
The timber rattlesnake is a state endangered species associated with mature forest habitat. Within these mature forests, timber rattlesnakes use regenerating clearcuts for feeding sites and other openings, downed timber, and rocky outcrops for basking. In the 1800s, the species was found in about 24 counties from the Ohio River to Lake Erie. As a result of direct killing, unregulated collection, and habitat destruction, today the snake can be found in limited numbers in Adams, Hocking, Jackson, Meigs, Pike, Ross, Scioto, and Vinton counties. Viable populations of this species (>50 individuals) persist in Vinton and Scioto counties. The Division of Wildlife’s management plan for this species is to protect existing populations as opposed to increasing their occupied range.
An adult rattlesnake is about 40 inches in length and 8 inches in diameter. Colors range from gray, brown, tan, or yellow with transverse black bands shaped in chevrons, v-shaped bands, or ovals. Timber rattlesnakes can live more than 20 years. Typically 8 young are born in each litter, but only 2 or 3 will survive their first year.
Ohio timber rattlesnakes utilize high, dry ridges throughout the summer. Individuals are occasionally seen crossing bottomland roads as well as high, dry ridge roads. Timber rattlesnakes found crossing the lower elevation roads are believed to be moving from 1 high ridge to another.
Since 1993, rattlesnake surveys and research have been limited to gathering biological data, movement patterns, home range, and reproduction status, as well as characterizing habitat preferences and verifying occupied areas within their historical range. Specific information on their distribution and biology is vital to the development of a sound conservation plan to ensure that the timber rattlesnake remains a viable component of the state's wildlife diversity.
The principal investigator of this species in Ohio has been herpetologist Doug Wynn. Timber rattlesnakes are surveyed by walking potential habitats in the early spring as well as examining potential dens in winter. Where suitable habitat exists, more intensive surveys are conducted during the snake’s active season (mid-May through September). In late summer, efforts are made to survey open habitats that contain nearby shelter. Such habitats are often utilized by pregnant females who seek warmer conditions for development of embryos. When threatened or faced by unfavorable weather conditions, these females can then find escape cover.
Eight public observations of timber rattlesnakes were field reviewed in 4 counties. Timber rattlesnake sightings by the public are a valuable tool used in identifying areas of possible snake occupation. Twenty-one live timber rattlesnakes were found during the 2009 survey season.
Since 1998, Doug Wynn has served as a liaison with the Division of Forestry and loggers to evaluate possible impacts of timber sales, placement of skidder (logging) roads, and prescribed burns in critical rattlesnake habitat. Proposed harvest units are evaluated to determine potential impacts to known or suspected rattlesnake denning and/or basking sites or if the cut may proceed unmodified.
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