Woods, Waters & Wildlife

A black bear lounging in a tree

Shooting black bears!

I’ve lived in Ohio all my life, spent tons of time in the outdoors, and have never encountered a black bear in the wild in the Buckeye State. That’s not to say they’re not here, of course.

Predictably unpredictable, black bears are not the bumbling oafs or cuddly teddy bears they are portrayed to be on some television nature programs. No matter where they live, by nature a bear is still a bear, and they are much stronger, smarter, and more adaptive than most people realize.  They are also fast, able to run 30 miles per hour for a short distance (the best an Olympic sprinter can do is in the low 20s). It is the wise wildlife photographer who gives bears a wide berth.  

The 'Lake Lady'

Gone fishing

If you’re an angler, at least once during your lifetime you must experience the unique, majestic beauty of a Lake Erie sunrise.

“I enjoy teaching people, male or female, young or old, the sport of walleye and yellow perch fishing on Lake Erie’s Western Basin,” she says. “I probably average about 100 guiding trips per year, from the islands east to Huron, depending on where the fish are biting.”

Preening woodcock

Sky dancer

Head outdoors with me after supper some evening during the month of April, and remember to take a jacket, as it will be chilly by the time we return after dark.

You’ll likely hear a woodcock long before spotting one, the sound beginning just after sunset. The woodcock’s call has been described as a single loud “peent” or “buzz,” spaced every few seconds. That usually continues for several minutes before the male finally takes wing in a spiral flight skyward, making a twittering sound as he climbs.  

Snapping turtle

Lizards and turtles and frogs - oh my!

There are countless unique ways to earn a living in 21st-century America, but not many more unusual than that of a professional herpetologist. The study of amphibians and reptiles, herpetology deals with wild critters that lots of people find repulsive.

“I grew up in Cincinnati, where my father owned a pet store and delivered supplies to other pet stores,” Lipps says. “I rode along with him whenever I could and was always fascinated by the animals in the various shops we visited — particularly the reptiles and amphibians.”

Carp in Lake Erie

Miscues, bloopers, and do-overs

Professional wildlife management, as practiced today by America’s state/national governmental agencies and private conservation organizations, is a high-tech, finely tuned science that has resulted in the restoration of many wildlife species — some absent from Ohio for more

22 million carp?!?

For example, the following item appeared nearly a century ago, in the March 1923 issue of the Fisheries Service Bulletin, published monthly by the Federal Bureau of Fisheries, under the heading “Hatching Carp in Lake Erie”: 

Pileated Woodpecker

Attracting ‘Big Bird’

The largest woodpecker in North America lives in the Buckeye State, and for years I tried unsuccessfully to lure one to my home birdfeeders — and, ultimately, within camera range.

As the photos with this story attest, I eventually achieved my goal of attracting and photographing pileated woodpeckers up close. But I have to give credit where it’s due — I had a little help.  

An owl observed during wintering-owl study.

Whooo’s there?

Regular readers of Ohio Cooperative Living may recall a story that ran exactly a year ago titled “Give a hoot,” describing a statewide wintering-owl study to be conducted by Blake Mathys, an Ohio Dominican University associate professor and Union Rural Electric Coo

“More than 1,600 owl sightings were reported to the project,” says Mathys. “Of those submitted, about half were able to be assigned to species with some certainty, based on a submitted photo, recording, or description.”

He says he received reports from 87 of Ohio’s 88 counties, with only Jefferson County in eastern Ohio lacking. The top five counties for reported submissions were Hamilton (19.4%), Franklin (7.6%), Butler (6.1%), Warren (5.4%), and Clermont (4.8%). 

Al Brown’s deer-head sculpture, featuring locked whitetail deer antlers.

Deer death duels

Each autumn, testosterone-fueled whitetail bucks, their necks swollen to twice normal size in preparation for battle, clash in combat to determine who will win the right to breed the area’s does.

Clint Walker, a member of Consolidated Cooperative, discovered just such a pair of dead bucks on his farm in Morrow County in north-central Ohio during the autumn of 2017. Interestingly, this is not the first unusual find on the Walker farm. In 2013, a mastodon skeleton was discovered and subsequently excavated by biology professors and students from Ashland University. According to carbon-14 dating techniques, the giant bones were estimated at 13,000 years old.