By Dan Armitage, host of Buckeye Sportsman, Ohio’s longest running outdoor radio show
Being a state wildlife officer is an occupation I often regret not pursuing. I’ve gotten to know several officers, active and retired, during the quarter century I’ve been covering outdoor topics here in Ohio and have yet to meet one I didn’t like, respect and admire for the services they provide.
I shared a fishing camp with a former Marine a couple years back, and I asked him of all the U.S. service branches, Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force and Coast Guard, which he felt was the most dangerous to choose. He replied “wildlife officer.” He explained that only wildlife officers, as a part of their daily duties, are regularly coming in direct contact with people carrying a firearm. The second most dangerous on his list? U.S. Coast Guard — for the same reason.
We welcome 10 new state wildlife offers to the field here in Ohio this season. Congrats and thanks to all.
Ready to serve Ohioans
Ten new state wildlife officers from the 29th Wildlife Officer Pre-Service Training Academy have been sworn in. Graduation requirements included completing seven months of training in a multitude of law enforcement and conservation topics. Ohio’s newest wildlife officers were hired from a pool of almost 600 applicants from more than 12 states.
Wildlife officers have statewide authority to enforce wildlife regulations and protect state lands, waterways and property. As state law enforcement officers, they contribute to public safety both in their local areas and in Ohio’s vast outdoors. Each year, Ohio’s state wildlife officers speak to hundreds of clubs and groups about conservation and wildlife programs; perform fish and wildlife surveys; and provide technical advice and instruction about hunting, fishing and other outdoor-related recreation.
The new officers will be assigned to a county and will continue training by working with experienced officers in their area of assignment during the next six months.
The new state wildlife officers, their hometowns, and assignments, are:
Ethan J. Bingham, Wauseon, assigned to Seneca County
Michele E. Butler, Sandusky, assigned to Erie County
Nathan J. Cass, Galion, assigned to Crawford County
Levi M. Farley, Antwerp, assigned to Paulding County
Evan J. Huegel, Westfield Center, assigned to Stark County
Antoinette M. Jolliff, Cardington, assigned to Hancock County
Matthew J. Madgar, Cuyahoga Falls, assigned to Cuyahoga County
Ryan M. Pawlus, Mantua, assigned to Lake County
Brock P. Williamson, Bucyrus, assigned to Van Wert County
Houston J. Wireman, Wapakoneta, assigned to Adams County
For more information about the Ohio Division of Wildlife (ODOW), including how to become a state wildlife officer, visit wildohio.gov.
Seasonal ODOW employment
Speaking of working for the agency, the Division of Wildlife hires seasonal employees each year to help complete research and management tasks. There are positions available throughout the state, but only a limited number of jobs exist.
- Applicants must be at least 18 years of age and have a high school diploma or G.E.D.
- All positions are unclassified (i.e., no civil service or collective bargaining rights), are seasonal in nature (work a specified period of time, maximum of 1000 hours per fiscal year and/or calendar year), and do not earn benefits. There is no relocation assistance or housing.
- Pre-employment criminal background check — The final candidate selected for a position will be required to undergo a criminal background check. Criminal convictions do not necessarily preclude an applicant from consideration for a position. An individual assessment of an applicant’s prior criminal convictions will be made before excluding an applicant from consideration.
For a listing of all the jobs, locations, pay rates and application procedures, visit wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/about-contacts/careers/seasonal-employment-opportunities
Winter fish kills common as ice retreats
Small numbers of dead fish may be common in ponds and small lakes this month, the result of winter die-offs that result from long periods of heavy ice and snow cover on small waters, referred to as “winterkills.” Winterkills occur in some Ohio waters each year about this time as ice and snow from the past few months gives way to spring.
“Minor fish kills do not significantly impact fish populations or sport fishing opportunities in lakes and reservoirs,” said Kendra Wecker, chief of the ODOW. “Fish kills are fairly common in Ohio, particularly right after ice-out, from late April through mid-June, and during prolonged periods of hot summer weather.”
Winterkills are caused when persistent ice forms a surface barrier between water and air that prevents circulation of oxygen and blocks sunlight. If these conditions continue long enough, the oxygen fish need to survive may be depleted and result in some or all of them suffocating.
Winterkills are most common in shallow ponds and become obvious when dead fish are seen along the shore. Ohio’s northern counties are more susceptible to winterkill because of colder temperatures and more frequent snows. However, winterkills are possible in any part of the state during winters of persistent cold weather and snow cover.
Fish die-offs are possible in Ohio’s larger lakes as well, but for different reasons. Some fish, such as gizzard shad, are less tolerant of long, cold winters and are commonly seen along the shorelines of reservoirs and Lake Erie during moderate winters. However, in larger waters, species that commonly die off following winter are resilient and return in great numbers following a single spawning season.
Concerned citizens should not attempt to rescue stressed or dead fish. Handling stressed fish significantly reduces their chance of survival. Go to wildohio.gov to find more information about fish and preventing winterkills. Large numbers of dead fish should be reported by calling 800-WILDLIFE (945-3543).
Ohio’s resident adult bald eagles are already busy preparing for the next generation of eaglets. Female bald eagles in Ohio typically lay one to three eggs sometime in mid-February or late March, after which eggs are incubated by both parents for about 35 days. The young eagles leave the nest about three months later, usually before the Fourth of July.
Although eagle sightings in the Buckeye State are more common today, bald eagles were once an endangered species. In 1979, there were just four bald eagle nests in Ohio. Thanks to partnerships between the ODNR Division of Wildlife, Ohio zoos, rehabilitation facilities and concerned landowners, bald eagle numbers began to climb. Bald eagles were removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species in 2007 and from the Ohio listing in 2012. During the 2018 nesting season, ODOW biologists estimate that there were 286 eagle nests in the state, with mature eagles raising approximately 445 young eaglets.
March is a good time to get outdoors and view eagle nests, as the trees have yet to leaf out, providing the public great views of active eagle pairs. Bald eagles typically nest in large trees such as sycamores, oaks and cottonwoods near large bodies of water with an ample supply of fish, their preferred food. In Ohio, the western Lake Erie marsh region (Ottawa, Lucas, Erie and Sandusky counties) is home to a sizeable population of bald eagles. Excellent viewing opportunities can be found at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area and Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area. In the southern part of the state, eagles usually nest near major rivers such as the Muskingum, Hocking, Scioto and Great Miami. However, bald eagles can be found in nearly every county throughout the state, including urban settings. One famous pair resides just over 2 miles west of downtown Columbus along the Scioto River.
Although bald eagles are no longer endangered, they are still protected under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. It is illegal to disturb bald eagles. When viewing these majestic birds, remember to respect the animal’s space and stay at least 100 yards away from the animal or nest. Disturbing bald eagles at the nest site could lead the pair to abandon the eggs.