WETLAND SPECIES OVERVIEW
Ohio's wetland wildlife is a varied resource consisting of both resident and migratory species. Estimates suggest that <25% of Ohio’s original wetland habitat remains today. It’s not surprising that over half of Ohio's threatened and endangered species are dependent on wetlands as crucial habitat. Ohio's wetlands are an essential part of the life cycle of migratory birds which travel through the state each spring and fall between their wintering and nesting grounds. Monitoring populations of wetland wildlife, particularly migratory birds and furbearers, is a complex year-round task that involves the cooperation of many states and countries throughout North America. Participation by the Ohio Division of Wildlife (Division) in the Mississippi Flyway Council, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Midwest Furbearers Group, Partners-In-Flight, and other conservation groups and initiatives ensures wise monitoring and conservation of wetland wildlife.
Wetland wildlife populations are affected by many factors including habitat quality and quantity, weather, and the actions of humans. For migratory birds these factors may occur far from Ohio, but they have a major impact on the abundance of wetland wildlife species that frequent our state. Ohio’s wetlands were once part of a very complex ecosystem covering millions of acres. An important result of settlement was the “taming” of wetlands through extensive subsurface drains and ditches. Road building also altered the course of water forever. Today, wetland management is an art and science of manipulating water levels to simulate the natural drying and flooding that once occurred in Ohio’s wetlands. These manipulations entail mimicking natural drought and rainfall conditions to simulate these natural cycles. Drawdowns expose mudflats to heat and oxygen which stimulates the germination of seeds and growth of emergent vegetation. Shallow flooding attracts shorebirds that later give way to waterfowl and waders as water levels rise. The end result is an ecosystem that is one of the most productive available for a wide variety of wildlife. Most of Ohio's wetlands are in private ownership, but the majority of consistently high quality wetlands are managed by the Division, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and several private hunting clubs. The Division has stepped up wetland protection, restoration, and enhancement efforts throughout Ohio under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, the National Shorebird Plan, and the All-Bird Conservation Initiative.
The first written record of common terns in Ohio was in 1838. Although common terns occur statewide during migration, nesting colonies have always been restricted to the western basin of Lake Erie. Nesting colonies have been known to occur on many of the islands and sand spits at Little Cedar Point and Bay Point. In recent history, colonies were restricted to man-made sites in Maumee Bay and east Sandusky Bay. Habitat loss and competition from gulls have been the major factors depressing the population in the past 2 decades. A restoration program was initiated in 1991 on the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. Decoys and solar-powered recorders emitting the tern call were used to attract potential breeding birds to a secure dike and an island in the estuary of Crane Creek. Terns were successfully attracted to the area but nesting success was low due to a variety of predators. Raccoons, herring gulls, ring-billed gulls, great horned owls, and fox snakes were all documented depredating on the established colony and a natural colony started on the Pipe Creek Wildlife Area. An evolution of floating rafts were developed starting with platforms on barrels to the present modified pontoon boats. The restoration project objective is 5 colonies with at least 2 consisting of 100 pairs and an annual production rate of 1 young per nest combined.
Common Tern Aerial Nest Survey—Sites with potential nesting habitat for common terns are monitored each June by helicopter. This consists of flying potential habitat and observing for tern activity. Evidence of human activity is also collected to assess long-term potential for the species.
Common Tern Colony Breeding Survey—Breeding colonies are monitored for productivity and causes of nest, egg, and brood failure. Platforms are monitored remotely until tern activity is observed. A weekly survey of the platforms for each colony is then instituted to count nests, eggs, and chicks. Each nest is numbered and its history followed until hatch or failure. Chicks are banded to determine length of stay on the platform, movement between platforms, and future migrational movements and site fidelity. Two colonies have been established. Pontoon boat platforms are fitted with gravel substrate, wire sides, overhead rope grid, and if needed electric fence to reduce predation and weather effects. Historical population and production data of the restoration program can be found in the Tern Population Table.
Colonial Wading Birds
The distribution of this diverse group of herons, egrets, and cormorants ranges from widespread in the state (e.g., great blue heron) to extremely local (e.g., yellow-crowned night heron). Historical literature indicates the group was common in the Lake Erie marsh region. Colonies of great blue herons and black-crowned night herons were common, whereas great egrets were rare and localized. Cormorants last nested in the state in the 1880s and were reduced to migrant status until the 1990s, when they began nesting in the Lake Erie region.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1919 provided protection to colonial wading birds from poaching and harassment. In recent decades, shifts in breeding range have been noted in several species. The black-crowned night heron was eliminated as a mainland nester and has been relegated to the Lake Erie Islands. The great egret has slowly increased in Ohio. Cormorants have experienced dramatic population increases in recent years throughout the western basin of Lake Erie and have caused concern that they could displace other nesting colonial waders.
Other Lake Erie Colony Survey—Populations of other wader and cormorant colonies in the western basin of Lake Erie are monitored by aerial survey or walk-through methods to determine changes in colony size.
The first official record of bald eagles in Ohio was in 1811. Historical nesting records exist for every county along Lake Erie; around the inland lakes of Pymatuning, Buckeye, Indian, Charles Mill, and Grand Lake St. Mary’s; Killbuck Creek swamp in Wayne County; and in Brown and Butler counties. The size of the original population is unknown, but important wetland habitat has been reduced by approximately 87%, which probably greatly decreased the number of eagles in Ohio.
In the 1960s, trends in reproductive failure were linked to contamination by pesticides such as DDT. In 1972, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act was passed to bring this problem under control, but by 1979 the Ohio population had dropped to 4 breeding pairs. Intensive efforts to increase production took place from 1979-1987 and focused on fostering young (i.e., introducing captive-reared young to wild nests), nest tree improvement, public education, and rehabilitation of injured birds. As a result, Ohio's eagle population has been increasing and expanding its range since the early 1980s.
Bald Eagle Volunteer Nest Monitoring—The bald eagle has continued to increase in Ohio since 1979. Objectives of the volunteer monitoring program are to estimate nest hatch within 3 days for as many Ohio eagle nests as possible. Production, failure, and cause of failure can be determined with a systematic monitoring of individual nests; tracking these indices through time allows us to determine population status. Volunteers monitor nests from established viewing areas and assess adult behavior to determine nest status. Young are counted indirectly from behavior or from visual sightings. Historical nesting pair data can be found in the Eagle Nest Table.
Bald Eagle Aerial Nest Surveys—Aerial surveys are conducted in March in an established statistical panel design of survey blocks. Block surveys are run by helicopter to search for nest structures and their occupancy. Nests are not approached at close range unless unoccupied. Nests are recorded with a global positioning unit (GPS) for future reference and monitoring.
Bald Eagle Aerial Production Survey—All nests found in the March Block surveys are inspected by helicopter in late May or early June to access productivity. This survey, including information from volunteer reports, enables us to estimate annual production and eaglet mortality for the breeding season. Historical production data can be found in the Eagle Nest Table.
Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Survey—An annual mid-winter eagle survey is conducted each January as part of a cooperative nationwide survey. The standardized aerial survey starts on the Maumee River near Grand Rapids and progresses through the Lake Erie Marsh Region, continues along the lake front to Cleveland, traverses to Mosquito Creek Reservoir, proceeds through the chain of lakes in Portage, Mahoning, and Stark counties to Killbuck Marsh, continues down the Muskingum River to the Ohio River, comes up the Scioto River, jumps through Big Island and Killdeer Plains Wildlife Areas, and finally follows the Sandusky River to the Lake Erie marshes. All birds are counted and classified as adult (5 years and older) or immature (<5 years old) eagles. Data from the historic mid-winter aerial count can be viewed in the Mid-Winter Eagle Survey Figure.
Greater sandhill cranes are listed as a state endangered species by the Division of Wildlife. The Division’s State-listed Terrestrial Wildlife Tactical Plan calls for restoration of all endangered terrestrial wildlife and protection of species to the point where they meet criteria for down-listing by 2010. Specific actions for restoring sandhill cranes include protection of nesting sites and habitat restoration.
Observations of breeding pairs and confirmed sightings of nests or colts indicate breeding by sandhill cranes in Ohio since 1985. Growth of the breeding population has been slow, primarily centered in the Killbuck/Funk Bottoms region, Geauga, Ashtabula, Lorain and Trumbull counties of northeastern Ohio, Williams County in northwestern Ohio, and in the Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area of central Ohio. The source of the cranes in the Killbuck/Funk Bottoms region and in northeast Ohio is suspected to be the small breeding population at Long Point, Ontario on the northeastern shore of Lake Erie. Expansion of breeding populations in southern and central Michigan may be the source of birds that are beginning to appear in northwestern Ohio.
Although small numbers of sandhill cranes have consistently nested within the state in recent years, there is little knowledge of what population or habitat factors currently limit growth of the Ohio breeding population. Unstable water levels may limit nesting success as pairs that nest on water-regulated marshes seem to experience greater success than pairs nesting elsewhere. Habitat use patterns are unknown in Ohio, but availability of foraging habitat during pre-fledging or other stages of the breeding cycle could be limiting. Alternatively, population or habitat factors outside the state may be limiting. Natural expansion of the Ohio breeding population may depend on growth of source populations outside the state or could be limited by post-breeding survival or habitat availability during winter or migration periods.
All 3 areas where sandhill cranes are known to breed in Ohio are associated with grassland or wetland habitat conservation focus areas identified by the Division. Breeding habitat must include: (1) a nest site, typically located in shallow emergent wetlands; (2) roost sites in shallow (10-30 cm) water surrounded by deep water or a large expanse of marsh; and (3) feeding areas such as grain fields, emergent wetlands, wet meadow, pasture, and riparian areas. Spatial or visual isolation from human disturbance also affects habitat occupancy. Cranes are thought to require at least 100 m between use sites and human disturbance features such as roads or human habitation in the Midwestern U.S. Habitat needs are met by large marsh complexes, small scattered marsh complexes, beaver ponds, and wet meadows adjacent to riparian zones. Juxtaposition of water, food sources, and freedom from disturbance are more important to habitat quality than the specific composition of cover types.
Nesting sandhill cranes and significant migrant concentrations are tracked by the Division. Observation cards noting migrational sightings are received from the public. Historical data of sandhill crane nesting can be found in the Sandhill Crane Nesting Table.
Ospreys have been uncommon migrants and summer visitors to Ohio throughout the 1900s. Historical nesting records from the 1800s include Grand Lake St. Mary’s, Poland in Mahoning County, Erie County, and Buckeye Lake. The last consistent nesting occurred at Grand Lake St. Mary’s and ended in 1913. Osprey populations declined for a number of reasons including habitat loss, decreasing water quality, nest site disturbance, and shooting by poachers. The last known nesting attempt occurred at Buckeye Lake in 1941. Ospreys returned to Ohio’s breeding fauna with a successful nest on the Ohio River in Jefferson County in 1995.
A restoration program was initiated in 1996 which utilized hacking towers to release young osprey to the wild at 5 sites including the Portage Lakes, Lake LaSuAn Wildlife Area, Deer Creek Wildlife Area, Salt Fork Wildlife Area, and Spring Valley Wildlife Area. Hacking involves placing osprey chicks in nesting boxes on elevated platforms and feeding them until they fledge. Every effort is made to minimize the exposure of the young to humans. Hacking was discontinued by the Division of Wildlife after the project goal of 20 breeding pairs was reached in 2003. The Wilds in Muskingum County hacked birds from 2003-2006.
Ospreys will nest on just about any tall structure near a lake or reservoir. Several nesting platforms have been built throughout the state and many are currently being used. Other nesting locations include telecommunications towers, electrical towers, and dead trees located near lakes with sizable fish populations.
Ohio’s osprey population has increased to the point that it is no longer feasible to monitor each nest. Approximately 30% of known osprey nests will be monitored each year to record production, and new nest locations will be added to the database. Young osprey chicks are banded in some of the accessible nests in June and July with a colored leg band and a USFWS band. These bands help the Division determine the origin of many of the ospreys which nest in Ohio. Information on new nests is often provided by the general public through calls to 1-800-WILDLIFE. Historical data of osprey nesting can be found in the Osprey Nesting Table.
Trumpeter swans were eliminated from Ohio in the early 1700s due to unregulated harvest by early settlers and Indians who used the swans for both their meat and feathers. No records indicate that swans nested in Ohio; however, French missionaries in the 1600s did report breeding swans at the mouth of the Detroit River. At that time, the Lake Erie marshes were continuous from Detroit to Sandusky; hence, it was likely that trumpeter swans nested in Ohio.
Aerial surveys are conducted in May to determine the number of nesting pairs and again in June to determine the number of cygnets produced. Information on new nesting pairs is often provided by the general public reporting swan sightings through 1-800-WILDLIFE. Historical data of trumpeter swan nesting can be found in the Trumpeter Swan Nesting Table.
A restoration effort was undertaken in 1996 as part of the International Restoration Plan for the Interior Population of Trumpeter Swans. The Division of Wildlife has worked cooperatively with the Mississippi Flyway Council, the Cleveland Metropark Zoo, The Wilds, and Ducks Unlimited to implement this project. The objective of this project was to have 15 nesting pairs in Ohio by 2006. The reintroduction project consisted of 4 phases: (1) release of 2- to 3-year-old captive-reared trumpeter swans, (2) release of swans hatched from Alaskan trumpeter swan eggs, (3) release of swans obtained from private propagators, and (4) release of swans obtained from the Mississippi Flyway. The Alaskan eggs were hatched at the Cleveland Metropark Zoo and the cygnets taken to The Wilds. After 2 years in captivity at The Wilds, the swans were released at selected wildlife areas. Trumpeter swans prefer large marshes, lakes, and swamps ranging in size from 30 to 150 acres. They prefer shallow wetlands 1-3 feet deep with a diverse mix of emergent and/or submergent vegetation and open water.
Other Wetland Breeding Birds
The Division’s Strategic Plan, Ohio Partners-In-Flight, and the Lower Great Lakes Joint Venture of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan all point out that severe wetland habitat loss has most likely resulted in population reduction of wetland birds. Over 90% of Ohio’s wetland habitat base has been lost during the past 2 centuries. Many remaining wetlands have been fragmented or isolated damaging the landscape complex important to many species of wildlife. Determining the population status of wetland birds can be used as an indicator of the health of Ohio’s remaining wetland ecosystem.
Wetland Breeding Bird Survey—A survey designed to monitor wetland breeding bird abundance was initiated in 1990 by the Division and the former Ohio Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit (OCWRU). The OCWRU was contracted by the Division to determine what species in Ohio are not adequately covered by the North American Breeding Bird Survey (see the American Crow in the Grassland Wildlife Overview section for survey details) and then to develop a survey that would fill this gap in knowledge. Species inadequately monitored were predominately wetland species but also included forest-patch specialist, nocturnal, and relatively non-vocal birds. An experimental wetland breeding bird survey (WBBS) has been conducted since 1991. Volunteers are used for the survey and data were compiled by the OCWRU until 1994 and since by the Division’s Crane Creek Wildlife Research Station. Approximately 40 survey routes were initiated by volunteers on wetlands familiar to them. Study design is composed of a series of stops conducted on pre-determined routes from 15 May to 7 June. All birds seen or heard in a 5-minute period within an arc of 100 yards of the observer are recorded. During the 5-minute period, a tape is played containing calls of the American bittern, least bittern, sora, Virginia rail, and king rail. Any birds flushed from the survey zone upon approach, or flying through the zone, are counted. Morning surveys start one-half hour before sunrise, and continue for 3 hours, or until the route is completed. Evening surveys are timed for completion at sunset to one-half hour after sunset. Selected species were recorded until 2002 when all species heard or seen were included. Wetland birds with reasonable data for Ohio includes the marsh wren, pied-billed grebe, willow flycatcher, and swamp sparrow.
Ohio is located at the crossroads of the Mississippi and Atlantic Flyways, and is frequented by at least 30 species of ducks, geese, mergansers, and swans during the fall, winter, and spring migrations. The majority of these waterfowl breed in the prairie pothole region, the subarctic, Ontario, and the Upper Great Lakes region. Annual production is tied directly to habitat and weather conditions in these regions. Wood ducks, once nearly extinct, are Ohio's most numerous breeding waterfowl, followed by Canada geese, mallards, and blue-winged teal. Giant Canada geese, also once nearly extinct, were reintroduced by the Division in the 1950s. Waterfowl rank second to white-tailed deer as Ohio’s most popular species of "watchable wildlife" and are a favorite with hunters and other marsh visitors.
Population and Harvest Surveys
Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey—This USFWS-administered survey is conducted continent-wide in early January each year to monitor waterfowl populations on the wintering grounds. Ohio conducts ground counts in each county along with an extended aerial survey of waterfowl concentration sites in northern and southern Ohio. To see maps of 2010 survey data: total waterfowl, ducks, and geese; long-term data can be found at Mid-Winter Waterfowl Table.
Continental Breeding Waterfowl Survey—This cooperative survey of waterfowl breeding areas is conducted annually in May by the USFWS, the Canadian Wildlife Service, and several state wildlife agencies to estimate the size of breeding populations and to evaluate the condition of habitats. These surveys are conducted using fixed-wing aircraft and encompass principal breeding areas of North America. May waterfowl numbers in the traditional survey area (TSA), which encompasses principal waterfowl breeding areas in Alaska, prairie Canada, and the north-central United States (i.e., the prairie potholes), have been surveyed since 1950. The eastern survey area (ESA) encompasses important breeding areas for waterfowl that winter in the eastern U.S., and includes south-central and eastern Ontario, southern Quebec, and Maine. Surveys have been conducted in the ESA since 1990. In prairie Canada and the north-central U.S., estimates of ducks and ponds seen from the air are corrected annually for visibility bias by conducting ground counts. In northern portions of the TSA and ESA, duck estimates are corrected using visibility rates derived from a comparison of airplane and helicopter counts.
In July, aerial observers assess summer habitat conditions and duck production in a portion of the TSA. This survey provides estimates of the number of duck broods and number of ponds. Long-term waterfowl population estimates can be found in the Waterfowl Population Table.
The fall flight index of total ducks (excluding scoters, eiders, long-tailed ducks, mergansers, and wood ducks) is based on information from the breeding population and production surveys in the TSA and breeding population estimates from 6 states (California, Colorado, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Wyoming).
Mallard fall-flight indices predict the size of the fall population originating from the mid-continent region of North America. For management purposes, the mid-continent population is comprised of mallards originating from the TSA, as well as Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The indices are based on the mallard models used for Adaptive Harvest Management and set the waterfowl hunting regulations package available to Ohio hunters annually.
Waterfowl Harvest Surveys—Since the early 1950s, the USFWS has conducted a survey of Federal Duck Stamp purchasers to estimate waterfowl hunter activity and harvest in the United States. That survey was conducted annually through the 2001-2002 hunting season, after which it was replaced by a new migratory bird harvest survey system. In 1992, the USFWS and State Fish and Wildlife Agencies (States) established the national, cooperative Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP), which was fully operational nationwide by 1999. This cooperative State-Federal program requires licensed migratory bird hunters to annually identify themselves to the State licensing authority by providing the State their name, address, and date of birth, and requires them to carry evidence of their compliance whenever they hunt migratory birds in that state. States are required to ask each migratory bird hunter a series of screening questions about their hunting success the previous year. The USFWS is responsible for using the data provided by the States to annually conduct national hunter activity and harvest surveys for all migratory game birds.
Each year from 1999-2001, the USFWS conducted both the Federal Duck Stamp based survey and a HIP waterfowl harvest survey concurrently, with the objective of comparing and evaluating the results of the 2 surveys. That evaluation will provide the basis for maintaining continuity of these long-term harvest data. Long-term data for waterfowl harvest and hunter activity can be found in the Waterfowl Harvest Table.
Canada Goose- Resident
Population and Harvest Surveys
Ohio Resident Breeding Canada Goose Survey—This aerial survey is used to estimate the spring giant Canada goose population in each Mississippi Flyway state during the peak of nesting. Ohio was stratified into 1-minute latitude by 2-minute longitude blocks, and each block was assigned a potential goose density of low (<1 pair), medium (1-4 pairs), or high (>5 pairs). Presence or absence of water-bodies was determined for each block, as only blocks with water are surveyed. Blocks are randomly selected and are surveyed by helicopter, with the pilot and 1 biologist serving as observers. Data collected include: date, observer, state surveyed, plot #, lat-long, descriptive location, time, search method, number of geese observed (singles, pairs, singles with nest, pairs with nest, numbers of groups and their size), percent of plot with water or wetlands, weather conditions, and any other pertinent information. The survey is run during mid-April to ensure the highest nesting activity. All data are compiled and forwarded to the Mississippi Flyway Council Technical Section Giant Canada Goose Committee for analysis. Long-term data are listed in the Giant Canada Goose Population Survey Table.
Even before the giant Canada goose had been extirpated from the lower 48 states, private citizens and conservation agencies began expressing interest in restoring these birds to their former breeding range. Ironically, the 19th century practice of capturing and domesticating wild Canada geese to use as food and live decoys, a practice that contributed to the population's demise, also provided a source of birds for restoration projects. Efforts to establish small, free-flying, self-sustaining flocks of giant Canada geese began as early as the 1920s in Michigan and 1930s in Wisconsin, Ontario and Minnesota. During the 1940s and 1950s, agencies in Wisconsin, Manitoba, Minnesota, Missouri and Ohio brought giant Canada goose restoration programs on line. In the 1960s, state agencies in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana and Tennessee joined the restoration effort while the USFWS initiated programs to establish nesting populations of giant Canada geese on national wildlife refuges in Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama. These projects were soon followed by state's efforts to establish populations of giant Canada geese in Kentucky, Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi in the 1970s and 1980s.
Most of the restoration projects that were successful in reestablishing nesting populations of Canada geese in the Mississippi Flyway adhered to 4 basic practices: (1) giant Canada geese were used as breeding stock, (2) young geese were released from captive flocks until self-sustaining, free-flying populations developed, (3) release sites were surrounded by sufficient habitat to enable flocks to grow and expand, and (4) surrounding lands were often closed to Canada goose hunting to reduce mortality on locally produced birds.
Giant Canada geese were reportedly extirpated from Ohio between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of the 20th century. The Division initiated a giant Canada goose restoration program on 3 state-owned wetland areas in 1956. Original restoration efforts consisted of 10 mated pairs of Canada geese confined to 5-acre pens on each of Mercer Goose Management Area (GMA), Mosquito Creek GMA and Killdeer Plains GMA. All Canada geese used for restoration originated from private decoy stocks that had been kept for 30-60 years by their owners and ancestors prior to purchase by the state. Breeding enclosures were later enlarged to 60 acres to accommodate the rapidly growing flocks. Canada geese, which traditionally nest on the ground, were imprinted to elevated nesting structures to minimize predation and decrease intra-specific strife. No-hunting buffer zones around each goose management area were established to attract and hold free-flying wild geese within the boundaries of the buffer zone during the autumn migration and waterfowl hunting season. All goose flock sites were maintained as free of human disturbance as possible.
In 1967, the Division entered into a cooperative Canada goose restoration effort in the Lake Erie marsh region with the USFWS at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge (ONWR). Fifty mated pairs were transferred from the Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area to a 60-acre enclosure on ONWR. In 1979, the Division entered into a cooperative effort with the Ohio Power Company to introduce Canada geese into reclaimed strip mine lands in Muskingum County. Giant Canada geese of mixed age classes were obtained in Toronto from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and placed into a 70-acre enclosure on Ohio Power Company lands to establish a flock in southeastern Ohio.
Production surveys were conducted on the 5 management areas from 1957-1993 to estimate annual production. The first statewide survey was conducted in 1979 and indicated Canada geese nested in 49 of Ohio’s 88 counties and recorded 3,300 nesting pairs and 18,000 total geese. Flyway-wide surveys have been conducted since 1993 in the Mississippi Flyway to develop a flyway population estimate for the Giant Canada goose. Recent surveys indicate that geese nest in all Ohio counties with population estimates ranging from 90,000-140,000 birds.
Future management and harvest in Ohio will focus on maintaining a minimum of 60,000 breeding geese statewide, and will direct harvest to check giant populations through both early and regular seasons while maintaining Flyway goals for the Southern James Bay population of Interior Canada geese.
Canada Goose- Migrant
Ohio has 4 recognized goose subspecies presently breeding or passing through the state during migration. Some recent geneticists argue that instead of 11-17 subspecies, there may actually be hundreds. The 4 subspecies found in Ohio are the Giant Canada (Branta canadensis maxima) which is the sole breeder at this latitude and discussed in the section above; the Interior Canada (Branta canadensis interior) which migrated historically from the James and Hudson Bay lowlands to Alabama, Tennessee, and the Carolinas of which, presently many winter in Ohio; the Common Canada (Branta canadensis canadensis) found in the Atlantic flyway which nest on the Ungava peninsula of Quebec and primarily winter in the Maryland region; and the Richardson Canada (Branta canadensis hutchsonii) which is the smallest (mallard size) and breeds on Baffin and Southampton Islands north of Hudson Bay and primarily winters in Texas.
Population and Harvest Surveys
Spring Breeding Grounds Survey— The primary migrant population utilizing Ohio is the Southern James Bay Population (SJBP). The SJBP is currently characterized by the following features: (1) it is the smallest and most southerly breeding population of B. c. interior, (2) it migrates through and winters in 2 flyways, (3) a portion of the population traditionally reached a "deep south" terminus, (4) numbers of geese wintering in southern states have significantly declined, (5) direct recovery rates of banded juveniles from a significant portion of the range (Akimiski Island) is lower than adults, and (6) recruitment and survival rates tend to be lower than other Canada goose populations.
The SJBP has faced considerable changes in land-use activities on its migration and wintering grounds. Creation of northern waterfowl refuges and changes in weather and land-use patterns are a few of the reasons hypothesized for distribution shifts occurring among states and flyways. Recent large increases in giant Canada geese (B. c. maxima) are also hypothesized to be affecting distribution and survival of SJBP geese and certainly have affected management via harvest regulations. In particular, the changes have made it difficult for managers to accurately assess the status and harvest of the population. This led to the shift of emphasis from wintering grounds to the breeding grounds for population definition and status assessment. Finally, new general knowledge about the interactions of geese and forage plant communities on breeding areas has highlighted the need for understanding the importance of breeding ground carrying capacity in the setting of population objectives. Conservation of the SJBP is of special significance to many people. With full cooperation among managers and user groups, the goal of sustained wise use of the SJBP will be achievable.
Spring population surveys of SJBP Canada geese have been conducted annually since 1990. These estimates are used in calculation of harvest derivations and they provide critical information about population status and breeding effort in different portions of the range. Numbers of geese on Akimiski Island have been relatively stable since 1991. Currently, timing of the survey is aimed at avoiding the influx of molt migrants, thus giving a more repeatable index of SJBP size. Traditional descriptions of migration and wintering areas have been based largely on band recovery distributions of birds banded on Akimiski Island. Mainland areas with recovery distributions similar to Akimiski Island were included in the SJBP breeding range, but relatively few geese were banded in mainland areas before the early 1990s. Increased banding efforts in northwestern James Bay, an area traditionally included in the breeding range of the Mississippi Valley Population, have yielded additional information on recovery distributions of geese from that area which suggest that some geese banded in northwest James Bay are recovered in SJBP migration and harvest areas.
Understanding factors that influence variation in annual production of goslings is essential for proper management of the SJBP, because harvest should not exceed production in a given year if a stable or increasing population is desired. The number of young in the fall flight is calculated as a product of the number of nesting pairs, nest success (i.e., proportion of nests hatching at least 1 egg), the average clutch size at hatch in successful nests, and gosling survival to fall migration. Research on nesting biology and gosling survival on Akimiski Island has been conducted annually since 1993 and information on age ratios at banding (goslings/brood patch female) has been collected annually since 1984. These data provide an annual index to gosling production for the SJBP. Long-term data are listed in the SJBP Breeding Population Table.
Annual Age Ratio Survey—Banding occurs in coastal areas of the SJBP breeding range and focuses on the capture of locally nesting adults and their broods; flocks composed entirely of adults are avoided so that as few as possible molt migrant Canada geese are banded. Brood patches on adult females indicate a nesting attempt in that year and records of brood patches are kept for all adult females captured. This allows calculation of the number of goslings per brood patch female, an index of average brood size at banding. If unsuccessful females (i.e., those that have lost their nest or entire brood) are captured with brood flocks in proportion to their occurrence in the population, the index should provide a reasonable estimate of production. However, if unsuccessful females depart from nesting areas or flock independently of successful females, then the index overestimates production. This type of index also does not account for gosling mortality that occurs after banding, but before hunting seasons begin, and thus may not adequately reflect the size of the fall flight.
Akimiski Island Productivity Study—A study of nesting biology and gosling survival began on Akimiski Island in 1993 to investigate possible reasons for the decline in numbers of Canada geese on the island since 1985. Each year, data are collected on nesting chronology, clutch size, nest success, hatching success, and gosling survival to banding. These data suggest good production of goslings in most years (except 1996), but gosling survival estimates to banding age do not include an estimate of total brood loss, and are therefore likely to be biased high. As with age ratios at banding, these data do not account for mortality that occurs after banding, but before migration.
Post-banding Survival of Goslings on Akimiski Island—Canada geese nesting on Akimiski Island have not increased substantially in number over the past, despite restrictive harvest regulations implemented since 1991. This suggests that factors other than harvest (such as habitat condition) may be influencing population dynamics of geese on the island. Direct recovery rates (DRR) of Canada geese banded as goslings on the island have been very low since 1987 (mean = 1-3%; other populations of B. c. interior usually average 5-8% DRR for juveniles). In addition, field personnel commonly find bands from juvenile birds in the spring following banding. Low direct recovery rates of goslings are likely related to declines in habitat quality. Preliminary results from a study undertaken in 1999 and 2000 suggest that gosling mortality after banding, but before fall migration, can be substantial. In 1999, of 107 goslings marked with radios at banding (approximate age 45 days), at least 65 (61%) were known to have died prior to fall migration. Although preliminary results from 2000 suggest better survival (approximately 35% died), this suggests that on Akimiski Island at least, productivity indices determined at the time of banding, if used in a model of fall flight, would be biased high. Similar studies on the mainland would be desirable, albeit logistically difficult because of lower densities of nests and lack of concentrations of broods.
Goose Harvest Derivation Survey—Annual harvest of Canada geese is determined at the flyway level for all states. Band derivation is the method presently used to determine the harvest breakdown by state. All bands reported for Ohio are assigned to a population based on the banding location and morphological data if present. Each population has a spring population estimate calculated to get a value of total geese per band for each population. The total bands reported by hunters are multiplied by the weighting value to get the total harvest by population for each state.
Ohio's only endangered frog is small with a body length of approximately 1.75-2.25 inches. The body color is brownish with 2 yellow lines extending from the eyes down the back where they join together forming an hourglass pattern. Another defining characteristic is the vertically elliptical pupils of the notably large eyes. The spadefoot gets its name from the hard, black spade found on the underside of each hind foot. Unlike true toads, the warts on the skin are small and red.
This species is found only in areas of sandy soils that are associated with river valleys in southeastern Ohio. Breeding habitats are located within these areas and may include flooded agricultural fields or other water-holding depressions. Spadefoots spend most of their life hidden underground in burrows of their own making. Strong storms with heavy precipitation (at least 1.5 inches in 1 event) are needed to induce breeding, which is short and explosive. The male's croak sounds like "whar," and some have likened it to the sound of a young crow. The tadpoles hatch in several days and, if the water-filled pool begins to dry, can complete transition to adulthood in only a couple of weeks. Breeding can occur several times a year, or not at all, depending on the weather. Spadefoots are principally nocturnal but are most active for several hours after dusk.
The spadefoot was only recorded breeding at 2 locations in Ohio during the 1990s. Since 2000, there are documented breeding sites in 15 townships representing 5 distinct populations of spadefoots. These sites are located in Morgan-Washington, Lawrence, Coshocton-Tuscarawas, Meigs and Athens counties. Because of the frog’s fossorial habits, limited activity, and restricted habitat, they are very difficult to find. Ohio University Professor Scott Moody has been monitoring known breeding sites and searching for new spadefoot breeding locations for many years. In addition, participation of volunteers in the statewide Frog and Toad Calling Survey has helped increase awareness of this unusual frog. Over the past few years, the Division of Wildlife has confirmed additional populations of spadefoots as a result of interested residents who have alerted us about possible new sightings. The statewide Frog and Toad Survey effort is coordinated by herpetologist Jeff Davis and supported by volunteers who record frogs chorusing and document the numbers of individuals and species at stops along a permanent survey route. More than 100 individuals participate in the survey in 67 of Ohio's 88 counties. During 2008, data were reported from volunteers representing 35 routes in 21 counties.
The importance of Ohio's fur resource was recognized long before the region was settled. The heaviest exploitation of furbearers took place between 1750 and 1800. Since this era, Ohio's furbearers have gone through many fluctuations caused by changes in habitat and the fur industry.
Immediately following World War I through the 1930s, furbearer numbers were very low. Heavy demands for fur products during the war, drastic changes in land-use, wetland drainage, and degradation of water quality kept numbers of major furbearer species low. Initial attempts at restoring furbearer populations were often aimed at quickly increasing numbers to boost harvest levels or to take advantage of market demands; however, little effort was directed at correcting environmental problems.
During the mid- to late 1900s, changes in habitats throughout the state allowed several species of furbearers to become notably more abundant. In 1936, beaver, which had been absent from Ohio for nearly 100 years, established colonies in Ashtabula and Belmont counties. Since then, gradual growth and westward expansion of their population and range has taken place. Beaver now occupy more than 2/3 of Ohio, and their population has supported a regulated trapping season for many years. Coyotes, which were not known to be present in Ohio during the settlement period, expanded their range into the state during the 1950s to 1970s, and are now present throughout Ohio. The successful restoration of river otters in Ohio and throughout the Midwest has allowed this species to become increasingly common.
Furbearer numbers fluctuate in response to habitat, weather, disease, and harvest. Weather, specifically precipitation, plays an important role in habitat quality, reproduction, and survival of adults and young. For example, beaver are dependent on adequate rainfall to survive winter, for reproduction, and to induce dispersal of young from natal colonies. Winter kill of muskrats often occurs when marshes and waterways freeze to the bottom. Conversely, furbearer populations quickly increase when spring and summer rains are adequate, and if competition for habitat is low. Because they frequent less aquatic habitats, mink, raccoon, and weasel are less affected by drought, but often shift movement patterns and territories to find feeding areas along the edges of waterways. Coyote and fox (both red and gray) are affected by weather-related changes in the abundance of small mammals and insects. Spring floods can raise havoc with all furbearers by filling dens with water. Even in years of favorable environmental conditions, diseases such as mange, distemper, rabies, parvo virus, and parasitic roundworm spread quickly and affect furbearer populations.
Market demand and fur prices can affect hunter and trapper participation, which ultimately affects the number of individual furbearers that are taken by hunters and trappers. Demand for long-haired furs is very fashion-sensitive (e.g., fox and coyote garment trim). Demand for short-haired furs is more traditional, less fashion-sensitive, and varies with the amount of warehoused supplies (e.g., mink, beaver, and muskrat). Ultimately, furbearer hunting and trapping changes as the demand for, and financial return from, the pelts of various species changes.
Population and Harvest Surveys
Fur Taker Permit—All Ohio fur takers are required to acquire a fur taker permit to harvest furbearers in Ohio. The annual number of fur taker permits sold in Ohio can be found in the Annual Fur Taker Permit Table.
Spring Roadkill Survey—Approximately 50 40-mile routes were driven 3 times during March and 3 times during April resulting in almost 12,000 miles of survey coverage per year. The average number of raccoons, opossums and skunks observed per 1,000 miles provides a measure of annual change in roadkills for each species across the state. Annual roadkill estimates for those years can be found in the Roadkill Survey Table.
Bowhunter Survey—The Ohio Bowhunter Survey is a program used to track year-to-year changes in furbearer populations, and to record sightings of special interest species such as black bear, bobcat, and river otter. For more detailed information see the Bowhunter Survey Webpage.
Beaver Survey—Beaver populations are monitored in early November by a helicopter survey that covers a random sample of survey plots throughout Ohio, with each plot being approximately 2 mi2 in size. Individual plots are placed into categories (high, moderate or low beaver potential) based on terrain, percent forest cover and presence of permanent water. The number of beaver colonies, their location, condition, and habitat are recorded for each plot, and the number of colonies/mi2 is expanded to provide a range-wide annual index for the beaver population. The long-term beaver population and the number hunted and/or trapped can be found in the Beaver Population and Harvest Table.
River Otter Observation Reports and Bridge Surveys—Bridge surveys are conducted within 12 watershed groups in eastern Ohio that consist of 1-3 watersheds each. Surveys were concentrated in this region due to the extensive forest cover, beaver occupancy, and proximity to initial river otter release sites. Fifteen bridge sites were randomly selected within each watershed group using ArcView GIS software. Bridge sites were rejected if they were (1) within 3 km of a previously selected location, (2) within an urban, suburban or residential area, or (3) generally unsuitable habitat for otters or for detecting otter sign (e.g., high gradient streams, steep banks, low water quality, or wide rivers). Bridge sites were surveyed by Division of Wildlife personnel during each survey period by walking 300 m upstream and downstream from the bridge while searching for otter tracks, slides, scat, or latrine sites. Detectability indices were recorded for each location; defined as the percentage of the total stream bank having suitable tracking conditions (i.e., 0 = no suitable substrate, 1 = 10% suitable substrate, up to 10 = 100% suitable substrate). Observers conducted the survey at each bridge site until completed or until otter sign was detected. This information provides a measure of current distribution and relative abundance of river otters in eastern Ohio watersheds.
River Otter Harvest Survey – The first modern day trapping season for river otters occurred in 2005-2006. Thirty-one counties were open to trapping with a 3 otter bag limit in eastern Ohio and an additional 16 counties with a 1 otter limit acted as a buffer area within the known range of the animal in Ohio. All otters trapped in Ohio must be tagged within 72 hours of harvest. The long-term otter population and the number trapped can be found in the Otter Population and Harvest Table.