The fact that Ohio’s bald eagle nesting pairs have exploded the past eight years really should come as no surprise. The nation’s symbol had begun a dramatic comeback in the latter part of the 20th century and into the 21st century with 281 nests recorded in Ohio in 2012.
A recent survey using nearly 2,500 citizen reports of nests and confirmed by Ohio Division of Wildlife (DOW) personnel show there are now 707 bald eagle nests in the state. That’s an increase of more than 700 nests from 1979 when only four nesting pairs of eagles existed in Ohio.
There are more nesting pairs in six of the nine Lima area counties than there were in the state in 1979. And Mercer County ranks among the highest counties with nests in the state. It has 16 and is tied for ninth highest. In the last survey conducted in 2012, the county had three. There are 67 bald eagle nesting pairs in the nine Lima area counties. There were 11 in the 2012 survey. Eagle nests are found in 85 of Ohio’s 88 counties.
Locally, every county has at least two nests. In 2012, Allen, Auglaize, Shelby and Van Wert had none. Today there are five in Allen, four in Auglaize, three in Shelby and two in Van Wert. Hancock has a dozen nests today compared to four in 2012. Hardin and Logan have nine and eight nests today compared to only one each in 2012. Putnam has eight nests today compared to two in 2012.
Not surprisingly, four of the top seven counties are located along Lake Erie’s western basin. They include Ottawa, which has a whopping 90 nests. Sandusky County is a distant second with 50 nests while Erie County has 32 and Lucas County has 18. Ottawa County has several marshes. It is the third smallest county by land area, but is home to 13 percent of the state’s bald eagle nests.
Bald eagles are easy to see in these counties with the following locations offering excellent viewing opportunities: Magee Marsh Wildlife Area (Lucas and Ottawa counties), Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area (Sandusky County), Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge (Lucas and Ottawa counties). You can also see them and some of their nests while driving along Ohio 2, which crosses Sandusky Bay.
Since bald eagles like to nest near water, many rivers in Ohio, including the Maumee, Sandusky, Auglaize, Muskingum, Hocking, Scioto and Great Miami, are good places to see bald eagles nests. Lakes like Grand Lake St. Marys and Indian Lake have attracted eagles.
The banning of DDT, the passage of the Clean Water Act and placing the bird on the Endangered Species List all helped in the comeback of bald eagles. Federal and state agencies along with help from Ohio zoos, wildlife rehabilitation facilities, concerned landowners, and sportsmen and women and normal citizens have all played a critical part in the eagles increased population.
“The bald eagle is a symbol of American strength and resilience,” Gov. Mike DeWine said. “The eagle’s comeback in Ohio and across the country proves that we can overcome any challenge when we work together.”
“We are grateful to every Ohioan who contributed to this effort and thank those who support conservation of high-quality habitat that kept eagles nesting in Ohio,” DOW Chief Kendra Wecker said.
While the bald eagle is no longer listed as endangered, people should remember they are protected under both state law and the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
Bald eagle habitat protection and research is funded by the sale of bald eagle conservation license plates, income tax check-off donations to the Endangered Species and Wildlife Diversity Fund and sales of the Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp.
* * *
Youth and adult hunters in the Lima area got off to a good start in the wild turkey season.
During the youth season last weekend, young area hunters bagged 65 turkeys compared to the 36 youth took during the same weekend a year ago. The harvest was up in eight of the nine local counties.
A local county list of wild turkeys checked by youth hunters during the 2020 youth turkey season follows with numbers from 2019 in parentheses: Allen 10 (5), Auglaize 4 (5), Hancock 7 (1), Hardin 9 (8), Logan 12 (7), Mercer 4 (1), Putnam 11 (6), Shelby 4 (1) and Van Wert 4 (2).
Statewide, young hunters checked 1,843 turkeys during the two-day season. Last year, youth checked 1,331 turkeys during the same weekend.
Turkey hunters on opening day did not fare as well as a year ago in the Lima area and also statewide.
Locally, hunters checked 79 turkeys on opening day compared to 92 on opening day in 2019. Five local counties had fewer turkeys checked than a year ago.
A local county list of wild turkeys checked by hunters during opening day in 2020 follows with numbers from 2019 in parentheses: Allen 9 (9), Auglaize 6 (5), Hancock 5 (8), Hardin 19 (23), Logan 22 (21), Mercer 2 (3), Putnam 7 (10), Shelby 7 (11) and Van Wert 2 (2).
Statewide, hunters checked 2,430 turkeys during the opening day. Last year, 2,979 turkeys were checked during opening day.
The season in the south zone runs through May 17. Hunting changes next week to 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset.
The spring turkey season bag limit is two bearded wild turkeys. Hunters may harvest one bearded turkey per day, and a second spring turkey permit may be purchased at any time throughout the spring turkey season. Turkeys are required to be checked no later than 11:30 p.m. the day of harvest. All hunters are required to report their turkey harvest using the automated game-check system, which is available online by phone or at a participating license agent.
Al Smith is a freelance outdoors writer. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL