Ohio Wildlife Then and Now


Nature Close to Home and Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist Dave Woehr shares monthly naturalist stories.

LEBANON, OH -- In prehistoric times there were birds, mammals, and other life forms that lived here in Ohio, but now are gone forever. They are said to be extinct. These extinct species include the Passenger Pigeon, Carolina Parakeet, Mastadon, Wooly Mammoth, Scioto madtom (fish), Tubercled-blossom pearly mussel, Blue Pike, and assorted other aquatic species, reptiles and amphibians. Fossil remains of numerous other prehistoric species provide a geological record of extinct life forms that existed here millions of years ago.

There are lots of other species, which although not extinct, are no longer living in Ohio. They are said to be extirpated here. The word is used to describe life forms eradicated from part of their original natural range but still living elsewhere. For example some of the animals that used to live in Ohio but are now extirpated include the Mountain Lion, Timber Wolf, Elk, and Bison.

Then there are other species once classified as extirpated from Ohio that are being taken off that list because they are returning to the state in response to changing habitats and land usage. The Ohio Division of Wildlife recently placed an article in the news describing the return of a once-extirpated fur-bearing forest carnivore that has been gone from the state for 175 years. That mammal is known as the Fisher, a member of the weasel clan, which was recently featured in the Journal News. And if you have never seen a Fisher before you can check out this Youtube Video by Animal Square.

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But, the Fisher is not the only species to return to Ohio after once being extirpated. Due to well-directed conservation efforts and strict hunting and trapping regulations the White-tailed Deer, Wild Turkey, American Beaver, Bobcat, River Otter, and Black Bear are representative of once extirpated Ohio species that have returned within the borders of the state after being long gone.

Wildlife has a tremendous talent for adjusting to changes we impose on their habitats. It may take a bit of time, but they figure it out and adapt to our actions. We have to be smart about how we manipulate the usage of the land we share with our friends of the fields, forests, and waterways.

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