The Ohio Division of Wildlife (DOW) has a good thing going for the general public.
The wildlife agency offers outdoor enthusiasts divergent learning opportunities. Not only are they taught by wildlife professionals, but they also are free.
I attended a free waterfowl identification workshop at Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area, located south and west of Sandusky Bay last Saturday and the three-hour experience was a hit with more than a dozen hunters and birders who attended.
Following about an hour-long slide presentation on how to ID ducks, the group took off with our DOW leaders - Kelly Schott, her husband Jim and Mark Witt - for a few spots on the 4,000-acres wildlife area to put what we learned into practice. As a prelude, we all got to look through a trio spotting scopes in the area’s check station and sighted a variety of ducks. The trio of leaders all are duck hunters. Kelly works at Magee Marsh Wildlife area while Jim is the manager at Pickerel Creek and Witt is a private lands biologist who participated in Ohio duck population count for 20 years.
We saw a variety of ducks including mallards, blacks, green-wing teal, northern shoveler (sometimes called spoonbill), pintail, hooded merganser gadwall, lesser scaup and ring neck in the three areas we stopped. Among other sightings were trumpeter swans and a pair immature bald eagles devouring a gull for breakfast. At one stop, we saw 13 bald eagles (mostly immature) sitting in a tree line that was less than 100 yards long. My wife, daughter and I saw four bald eagles driving into the Pickerel area and one sitting in a tree just yards from the station
Later in the day we put our new-found learning into practice at Magee Marsh and Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. We saw the same kinds of ducks, plus coots (or mud hens) in addition to numerous trumpeter swans. The highlight was seeing a pair of sandhill cranes in flight and hearing their unique bugling sound.Bald eagles also were among the birds we saw including three that obviously were sitting on eggs in three different nests.
DOW free workshops have been so popular that some will fill in a matter of hours or days. Such was the case for a beginning fly-fishing and fly-tying workshop slated for Wednesday and Thursday at Wildlife District Five headquarters in Xenia. The workshop deadline was set for Monday but the 15 spots filled quickly last week.
For more information on additional educational opportunities available through the ODNR Division of Wildlife, visit wildohio.gov.
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Applications are now being accepted through April 2 to fill 11 state wildlife officer positions. Applicants, who meet certain criteria, will attend the DOW’s next wildlife officer cadet training school,
To be considered for the wildlife officer cadet training school, applicants must be at least 21 years of age by Dec. 31, 2018, and have a valid driver’s license. An associate degree or completion of an undergraduate core program in fish and/or wildlife management, criminal justice, environmental law enforcement or related fields is required by June 1, 2018.
Applicants must also be able to perform the Ohio Peace Officer Basic Training Program’s approved fitness testing entry standards for new recruits at the 30th percentile, be able to swim 100 yards in 5 minutes or less, and tread water for a minimum of 5 minutes. These standards are approved by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission (OPOTC).
To obtain more information, go to wildohio.gov/wildohiocareers, and to apply, go to careers.ohio.gov.
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Grand Lake St. Marys and Indian Lake in Limaland are among more than 30 state park beaches open as dog exercise areas until May 18.
Several state park beaches have been temporarily designated as “dog exercise” areas is new this year. Dog owners likely will have concerns running their canines at Grand Lake St. Marys. Dogs under control of their owner or handler in the designated dog exercise areas will not be required to be on a leash while the designation is in effect.
Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL