Know Ohio: Native Animals

Now that winter is behind us, you’re sure to see a bit more of Ohio’s wildlife making a comeback. And even if you’re not much of a hiker, you’ve probably seen some birds flying around or maybe a squirrel or two. But, there’s much more to Ohio’s animal species – up next Know Ohio correspondent Mary Fecteau is here to tell you about Ohio’s lesser known -- and seen -- animals.

Imagine, if you can, what Ohio might have looked like right before the first White settlers arrived. Back then, there were no roads or cities, and Ohio was covered in native trees and plants. And although there were groups of native people, Ohio was largely ruled by animals!

Some of these animals – like mountain lions, buffalo, wolves, and black bears – have since been killed off or driven out of Ohio, but many remain. In fact, Ohio has hundreds of native species of animals – from birds to fish to mammals – and they range from adorable to terrifying.

Like these guys! Yes, Ohio hosts 13 species of bats! Most bats like to live in dark places, like caves, and are nocturnal – meaning they only come out at night – so you likely haven’t been lucky – or unlucky – enough to meet one. Although they aren’t exactly cute and cuddly, bats generally do not harm people and are happy to feast only on insects, like mosquitoes.

But probably the most visible of Ohio’s wildlife is this guy. No matter what part of Ohio you call home, you probably see a lot of this species – the Fox Squirrel. But this type of squirrel is actually not the most common squirrel species in our state: believe it or not, Ohio’s most common squirrel is one you’ve probably never seen – the Flying Squirrel! Flying squirrels have a flap of loose skin that extends from their wrist to ankle. When outstretched, this skin allows the squirrel to glide from tree to tree. But, like the bats, the flying squirrel is nocturnal -- and lives mostly in Ohio forests.

And then there’s Ohio’s own wild cat! No, not NewsCat! Even with her lion mane, she’s not quite as fierce as Ohio’s native bobcat! But domestic cats, like NewsCat, and the bobcat belong to the same family, so they have similarities. By 1850, though, the bobcat population in Ohio was wiped out – and only recently has it begun to make a comeback – with hundreds of sightings over the past 40 years – including the recent sightings Stephanie mentioned earlier at Wayne National Forest.

Of course, at Ohio University in Athens, there are a ton of bobcats – that’s because the bobcat is the official mascot of the school -- and students, faculty, and alumni – like me – call themselves bobcats, honoring the fierce wild cat that once ruled the Buckeye State!

Instructional Links

Website Articles: Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Species Guide Index

http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/species-and-habitats/species-guide-index

Website Articles: U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ohio Federally-Listed Threatened, Endangered Species

http://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/lists/ohio-spp.html

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