I recently reached into the Outdoor Notebook mailbag and reviewed some questions sent in by readers curious about animals in Ohio. I hope the answers below help bring you a better understanding about some of Ohios intriguing wildlife species.
Is it true that turkeys have beards?
One distinguishing feature between male turkeys (toms) and females (hens) is the toms beard. Hair-like feathers make up the beard, which extends down from the center of the toms breast. Their beards grow quickly and reach an average of 12 inches in length.
Toms are also known as tom-gobblers and for good reason. Only male turkeys make the ill-obble-obble-obble call in spring to attract females and establish territory.
Hens, however, may get the last gobble. A toms reddish head is all but bald, whereas the hens bluish head is adorned with fine feathers.
Do wild turkeys fly?
Yes, which is handy since at night turkeys like to roost up in trees as high as 35-40 feet. Wildlife experts also say that while turkeys prefer to walk, they will fly to escape predators and can reach speeds of up to 55 mph.
Did you know wild turkeys swim?! Young turkeys, called poults, are unable to fly in the first few weeks after hatching. They swim across creeks to follow their mom and escape predators.
Why do male deer (bucks) put so much energy into growing a set of antlers then shed them each winter?
Antlers also known as racks are made of bone and are grown each year for the sole purpose of attracting mates and defending territory by sparring and fighting other bucks. A dominant buck generally has a large body size to go along with his large rack, entitling him to breed with the most does.
How antlers form is usually a matter of genetics. If daddy buck sported a large rack then junior is likely to follow in his tracks. Poor diet and injury negatively impact antler development, and can retard growth or cause abnormalities in the rack.
Like thumbprints, each rack is different and can be broken into two general categories: typical and nontypical. Typical racks are symmetrical in appearance, cleanly branching off into an even number of points on each side. Nontypical also have points, but exhibit exaggerated formations, such as multiple offshoots, spurs and twists in the antler.
After breeding season, a head full of antlers is only a nuisance to the buck. So, nature intercedes and in January or February, the bone around the antlers weakens and the antlers fall to the ground.
How do frogs survive the cold winter months?
Most of Ohios frogs hibernate on the bottoms of ponds and streams. But one native amphibian prefers staying on land and becoming a frogsicle.
The wood frog prepares for winter hibernation by burrowing under the forest floor. Falling temperatures trigger a chemical reaction and the wood frog begins producing a kind of froggy antifreeze. Large amounts of proteins and sugars pump through its credit-card size body, keeping cells from freezing and preventing dehydration.
As the winter deepens, the truly remarkable happens: 45 percent of the frogs body water turns to ice, its eyes and brain freeze solid, and its heart and lungs stop!
Come spring, the wood frog quickly thaws and is the first frog in Ohio to come out of hibernation.
Handsome by frog standards, the wood frog has an easily recognizable raccoon-like mask across its eyes and can be found throughout the eastern two-thirds of Ohio.
If you have a question for the Outdoor Notebook, please send it to Laura Jones at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, 1952 Belcher Drive, C-1, Columbus, OH 43224 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org