Friday, September 23, 2016

High bacteria levels force temporary closure of Lake Metroparks' Canine Meadows' dog-swimming pond

Lake Metroparks has temporarily closing the agency’s 1.84-acre Farmpark dog park swimming hole in Kirtland in an effort to eliminate the risk of exposure to excessively high  water-borne bacteria levels.

Following routine bacterial testing at the Farmparks’ “Canine Meadows Dog Park,” located on Chardon Road (Route 6) and adjacent to the Lake Metroparks Farmpark, it was determined that e. coli bacteria levels were at dangerously high levels.

Acceptable levels for such bacterial testing is 500 colony forming units (CFU) while the most recent testing by the private pond management firm hired by Lake Metroparks showed a level of around 1,300 colony forming units.

Consequently, says Lake Metroparks’ executive director Paul Palaygi, the fenced –in area that encompasses the pond area will remain closed until “bacteria levels drop back to safe levels.”

“We believe this was an appropriate measure,” Palaygi said. “Really, this is not a bad thing; I’m a dog owner, too, and I would be surprised if any dog owner would object to what we have done.”

Also, this section is also closed during the winter when the pond has a layer of thin ice that would pose a risk to any dog or person attempting to walk on the surface, Palaygi said.

Palaygi  said that the pond’s high bacteria levels probably came about due to a multitude of inter-connected issues. Continued high temperatures and a lingering drought likely hardened the ground. When the recent heavy rains arrived several days ago the resulting run-off flushed bacteria-growing medium into the pond.

However, Palaygi did say that just the fenced-in area containing the pond – which is up to 12-feet deep – will be closed. Remaining open are the Canine Meadows Dog Park’s fenced-in 2.57-acre large dog area and the park’s 1.84-acre small dog area.

General Lake Metroparks rules for the agency’s Canine Meadows Dog Park are:

  • Users of the dog park do so at their own risk.
  • Parents/legal guardians assume all risk for their children. It is recommended that children younger than 12 stay outside of the fenced areas for their own protection.
  • Dog owners are responsible for any injury or damage caused by their dog, per state law.
  • All Lake Metroparks rules apply and must be observed.
  • Each dog must display current license and rabies tags on its collar per state law.
  • No dogs larger than 35 pounds are permitted in the small dog area.
  • Dogs in heat are not allowed.
  • Sick or injured dogs are not permitted in the dog park, nor a dog that has been declared dangerous or vicious per state law.
  • Dogs that have been designated as dangerous or vicious per state law may NOT enter the park. A handler shall immediately leash and remove a dog that becomes aggressive. Criminal penalties apply for bringing a dangerous or vicious dog into this park.
  • Dogs must be closely supervised and within sight and voice control of their handler at all times.
  • All dog handlers must be at least 18 years old or supervised by an adult. No more than three dogs per handler.
  • Dog bites to other dogs or people shall be reported immediately to the Lake Metroparks Rangers at 440-354-3434. Handlers must provide their dog’s name, license number and veterinarian’s name to a ranger upon request.
  • Dogs are to be brought to the park on leashes and released inside the designated off-leash area, and put under the control of own leash again as they exit the off-leash area. Retractable leashes are not recommended.
  • Muzzles, spike or prong collars are NOT permitted on dogs in the park.
  • Dog waste must be picked up immediately by the handler and placed in the trash cans. Handlers who fail to do so may be cited for littering.
  • Animals other than dogs are NOT permitted.
  • People food and dog treats of any kind are NOT permitted ─ food and treats can trigger fights between dogs.
  • Glass containers, bicycles, strollers or children’s toys are NOT permitted.
  • Fishing and swimming by humans is NOT permitted.
  • Due to the nature of the facility, pets are not permitted into Lake Metroparks Farmpark.
By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Ohio's deer-motor vehicle accidents rose 7% in 2015; caused four fatalities

From does bumping Dodges to bucks taking on Buicks, the number of deer-motor vehicle incidents in Ohio rose seven percent in 2015 over 2014.

Based on data profiled in an annual report compiled by a joint task forth, last year Ohio saw 21,061 deer-motor vehicle incidents – the most since 2011 when the state saw 22,696 such occurrences. This task force consists of  the Ohio Highway Patrol, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife, and the Ohio Insurance Institute

Last year, he report states, deer-motor vehicle incidents in Ohio resulted in 801 injuries and four fatalities with an estimated total motor vehicle repair bill of $85.1 million at an average of $3,995 per vehicle.

Also, nationally, the industry-sponsored “Insurance Journal” electronic magazine says that each year about 1.23 million deer-motor vehicle incidents occur, causing around $4 billion in vehicle damage. In 2014 - the last year such figures are available - there were 166 deer-motor vehicle-associated fatalities.

In looking at the assembled data presented each autumn by the Ohio entities, the counties with the highest deer-motor vehicle incidents in 2015 included Lorain (596); Hamilton and Stark (527 each); Richland (503); Clermont (491); Williams (433); Trumbull (425); Hancock 9411); Tuscarawas (410); Defiance 409); and Cuyahoga (408).

The only county to finish with deer-motor vehicle accidents in single digits in 2015 was Monroe County with just nine such occurrences.
As for deer-motor-vehicle-associated fatalities in 2015, one each were noted in Belmont County, Harrison County, Ross County, and Tuscarawas County.

The greatest number of injuries associated with deer-motor vehicle incidents in 2015 included Cuyahoga County (47); Lorain County (37); Clermont County (36); Hamilton County (31); Medina County and Tuscarawas County (22 each); and Stark County (20).

Elsewhere in Northeast Ohio, the number of deer-motor vehicle incidents in 2015 were: Media County (401); Sandusky County (278); Geauga County (276); Erie County (273); Huron County (258); and Lake County (210).
Likewise, in further research compiled annually by State Farm Insurance, the odds of an Ohio motorist being involved in a deer-motor vehicle incident are pegged at one in 126. By comparison, the odds next door in Pennsylvania are one in 67, while the odds to the west in Indiana are one in 136.

To the south the odds of a Kentucky motorist being involved in a deer-motor vehicle incident are one in 103.
However, the odds go way up in West Virginia, which has the dubious distinction of the state with the most likely odds of a motorist being involved in a deer-motor vehicle incident: one in 41. This is followed by Montana (one in 58); Pennsylvania; Iowa (one in 68); and South Dakota (one in 70).

Based on the State Farm Insurance numbers the state with lowest odds of a motorist being involved in a deer-motor vehicle incident is Hawaii – one in 18,955. Hawaii has a sizable population of Axis deer, an introduced species.

An important item the Ohio Insurance Institute stresses is that the organization plays no part as a deer-management lobbying organization; dispelling a commonly held hunters’ myth that the insurance industry actively solicits for a reduction in the state’s deer herd, says an Ohio insurance industry official.

“Ohio's insurance industry doesn't take a position on deer culling or other methods of controlling the state's deer population,” said Mary Bonelli, the Institute’s senior vice president of public information.

“We believe the ODNR Division of Wildlife, in tandem with local government, brings the proper balance to address these matters. The Ohio Insurance Institute’s role, along with its state agency partners, is to bring to light safety-related issues such as the elevated risk of deer-vehicle crashes in the coming months along with ways to curtail them.”

And it is just such prevention that Bonelli says her group stresses, too.

“October through December is the peak deer mating season in the Buckeye state, called the ‘rut’ and we urge Ohio motorists to be on the lookout for deer near roadways during this heightened period of deer activity,” Bonelli said.

 Since deer tend to travel in groups, if a motorist sees one, expect others, also says Bonelli who added that peak hours for experiencing a deer-motor vehicle incident are 5 a.m. to 8 a.m., and again from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“Especially in areas known to have high density of deer population, the Ohio Insurance institue recommends using high beams when there’s no opposing traffic. High beams illuminate the eyes of deer, providing drivers better reaction time,” Bonelli said.

Bonelli says too that such deer avoidance devices as car-mounted high-pitched whistles and special reflectors have “not proven to reduce collisions and may even lull a person into a false sense of security.”

“Data shows that the number of deer-motor vehicle crashes is on the rise in Ohio. We've also seen an increase in overall crashes in the Buckeye state which suggests this,” Bonelli said as well.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Ditching boards and commissions a bad idea by the ODNR

Well, pass the buck and shuffle the blame, the current Ohio Department of Natural Resources has risen finger-pointing to a degree unmatched during any other administration.

With a year and a few months left before the Kasich Administration hands over Fountain Square’s keys to another troupe of bureaucratic appointees, efforts are afoot to see that the public has less access to the inner sanctum of the agency.

Such access comes in the form of boards, commissions, councils and such like. On paper anyway the Natural Resources Department has 17 boards, councils, and commissions. These organizations are (or were) fueled by concerned volunteer citizen-activists who happily donated their time to watch over the affairs for which the respective bodies were created.

The rundown on the advisory councils, commissions, boards are: the Clean Ohio Trail Fund Advisory Board; the Coastal Resources Advisory Council; the Council on Unreclaimed Strip Mine Lands; the Forestry Advisory Council; the Geology Advisory Council; the Natural Areas Council; the Oil & Gas Commission; the Oil & Gas Leasing Commission; the Oil & Gas Technical Advisory Council; the Parks & Recreation Council; the Reclamation Commission; the Reclamation Forfeiture Fund Advisory Board; the Recreation & Resources Commission; the Scenic Rivers Advisory Councils (14, or the number of impacted watersheds);  the Water Advisory Council; the Waterways Safety Council; and the Wildlife Council.

Some of the delegations are empowered to bark loudly. Meanwhile, at least one entity – the eight-member Ohio Wildlife Council – has enough needle-point teeth to bite if it believes the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s fish and game law proposals are not according to Hoyle.

However, some of these entities exist in name only; carefully crafted bureaucratic Potemkin villages intended to impress elected officials as well as fool the public into believing the Kasich Administration really does listen to the heart of it all.

Looks are deceiving, of course, and never more so than when a political fa├žade is built to hide how genuine public input is less vital than assuring that the Natural Resources Department can operate with minimal public interference.

While the Wildlife Division’s Wildlife Council is a third rail when it comes to agency oversight bodies – and thus would politically electrocute any bureaucrat  looking to tamper with the members – many/most of the other groups are much less well protected.

Indeed, at least several of the groups are endangered species; possibly even all ready having become extinct. All, by the way, after originally receiving initial protection from the Ohio General Assembly at the time of their creation; a legislative birthright if you will.

Case in point: The Natural Areas Council – a group that lives on paper, which is really not worth all that much. The reason being, Governor Kasich has yet to appoint any of the scientists and naturalists presented to him since the legislature breathed new life into the council.

When asked about thumbing its nose at the Ohio General Assembly, the Natural Resources Department said through one of its spokesman that: “The work of the Council is being accomplished through our normal stakeholder outreach, and that input can be offered to the Department through a less formalized and bureaucratic process.”

In talking with some naturalists familiar with the issue, they were sympathetically excused when their throats choked closed as the result of involuntary reflex.

Nor was (is) the Natural Areas Council the only Natural Resources Department board or commission being boxed up and placed in the Kasich Administration’s warehouse of alleged politically inconsequential and unnecessary frivolities.

Also being packaged with political bubble wrap and shipped to the warehouse is the Natural Resources Department/Office of Coastal Management’s Advisory Council. This council is a policy wonk group if there ever was one – yet a vital link between governmental expert wonks and civilian coastal issue wonks.
In explaining what happened in scrubbing this advisory council from the book of essential citizens’ work, a true-to-form Natural Resources Department mandarin stated: “That is not a decision that the governor or the director make. It is up to the legislative body called the Sunset Review Committee. Periodically, they review all advisory councils that are called for in Ohio law.”

You have to hand it to the Natural Resources Department and its minions; they’re good at passing the buck, shuffling the blame, and finger-pointing. Anything is game in an attempt to create a good old-fashioned deflection of responsibility.

Seriously now, it doesn’t take much understanding of statecraft to know that all it takes for a governor or his hand-picked Natural Resources Director to do is inform the Sunset Review Committee that each and every one of the 17 boards, councils and commissions are important for delivering transparency.

Yet by making it more difficult and convoluted for the public to provide input, expertise, criticism and – yes – oversight, the easier it will be for government to engage in subterfuge and mischief.

This is not why these bodies were legislatively born, and their deaths will serve no one other than the bureaucrats and the politicians

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Continuing drought still a heavy load for Ohio - in spite of August's rains

Ohio’s on-going drought could leave steelhead anglers high and dry.

Certainly, the data points to a decapitation of water resources throughout nearly the entire state, some locations more so than others. All of this comes in spite of a respite of sorts from the lack of sufficient rainfall during the month of August.

The little known and viewed - except for water management wonks – is called the “Monthly Water Inventory Report for Ohio,” developed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Water Resources. These reports are compiled toward the end of each month and include all of Ohio’s 10 designated districts with the current available one being for July.

This latest report notes that rainfall during July ranged from a low of 48 percent of normal for the West Central Ohio Region to 88 percent of normal for the Southwest Ohio unit. Only the state’s South Central unit recorded above average rainfall at 133 percent of normal.

By the report’s reckoning this was the 10th driest July on record for the Northwest Ohio Region in the past 122 years and 12th driest for both the state’s West Central and Central Hills regions.

As always when viewing precipitation levels, nothing falls evenly. Rainfall measurements ranged from 0.80 inches at Bucyrus in Crawford County to 7.84 inches at Jackson in Jackson County.

Of course, one month’s excesses or deficits neither a drought nor a flood makes. For that the Report notes precipitation for the 2016 reporting year records deficits in all but three regions: Central Ohio, Southwestern Ohio, and South Central Ohio.

Of critical importance are the dynamics as stated in the report’s Palmer Drought Severity Index; a measuring yardstick used to determine just how dry, dry is. The Index is a tool employed by water managers, agricultural interests and others dependent upon having such figures at their fingertips.

In virtually every one of the 10 reporting districts exists a minus notation in their respective Palmer Drought Severity indexes, too. These range from a minus-1.9 (“Mild Drought”) in the Southwest District to minus-4.5 (“Extreme Drought”) in the Northeast Hills District.

Off as well were the stream flows as gauged for nine Ohio rivers. Among the shortfalls recorded was on the Grand River which flowed at only 24 percent of normal during July, the Maumee River which flowed at just 27 percent of normal (the same as for the Huron River), and 33 percent of normal for the Muskingum River.

In the best shape – relatively speaking - was the Scioto River as measured at Higby which was gauged at 70 percent of normal.

It struck the Report to note that the decreased flow coupled by evaporation – brought about at least in some measure by the heat and generally abundant sunshine – caused reductions in water storage in “most reservoirs throughout Ohio.”

“However, current surface water supplies remain adequate throughout the state,” the Report states.

What all of this may mean if the dry weather continues – and looking ahead the month of October is often the driest one of the year – then access to streams by steelhead anglers could be restricted.

Consequently, steelheaders such as Bob Ashley of Mentor say they’ll be focusing on the lower reaches of Northeast Ohio’s stocked steelhead streams. In Ashley’s case that generally means concentrating on both the Grand and Chagrin rivers instead of further upstream at his usual lure and spawn sack-casting haunts.

Even more probable, Ashley says, he’ll spend as much time working the shoreline at such points as the Grand River’s West Breakwater or trolling in front of the Chagrin River; always before the sun touches the water.

Then again, Ashley says as well, he’s made lemonade out of the drought lemons handed to anglers this summer. He’s used the low water conditions to his advantage by discovering here-to-for unknown new undercuts in stream shale slips, and other structure that the normal deeper waters have hidden from observation.

“I’ve found places to fish that I didn’t know were there before,” Ashley says. “I’ll use this information later.”

Or when the rains return and thus the creeks are no longer running low and dry, of course.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, August 29, 2016

Ohio Wildlife Division Lake Erie fisheries expert to take on all the Great Lakes

A leading Ohio Division of Wildlife Lake Erie fisheries expert is trading his state management hat for a quasi-federal larger size.

Jeff Tyson – current Lake Erie fisheries program administrator stationed at the Wildlife Division’s Sandusky office – will transfer his biological status flag to the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission office in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

There he’ll move out of administering people and shuffling papers to “facilitating” communication, priorities, plans, and activities between all of the Great Lakes’ state, provincial, tribal, and federal stakeholders. The commission is a joint venture between the United States and Canada and receives funds from these two respective federal entities.

In effect, Tyson’s job will entail helping to keep these varied interests from pulling in opposite directions; in effect , ensuring that “we’re all working toward the same set of objectives;” those points  being what’s  best for the Great Lakes fishes and their respective end users including sport and commercial fishers.

“I wasn’t job hunting,” Tyson also said about making such a major career move after spending 23 years with the Wildlife Division.

“I’ve always been happy here but I’m going to be able to take what I’ve learned and accomplished and now do it on a larger Great Lakes regional scale. I guess what it will be is that I will remain engaged but in a different way.”

As the head of the Wildlife Division’s Lake Erie fisheries program, Tyson supervised some 14 full-time and 10 seasonal employees bivouac at the agency’s Sandusky and also Fairport Harbor research station offices. The annual budget for this combined state fisheries research arm is $2.5 million.

However, at the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission Tyson will no longer manage people but rather work to build consensus between stakeholders so that the right hand does know what the left hand is doing.

“The Commission really is a vital link in helping people and government understand what everyone is doing and also to help them understand what options are available,” he said.

Though Tyson has held his present Wildlife Division job for only four years his impending departure in a few days from now does not mean a bitter separation from the agency.

“Absolutely not,” Tyson said. “It was a difficult decision; I owe a lot to the Wildlife Division, the people here and also with the lake’s stakeholders, like the anglers.”

True enough, also says Rich Carter, the Wildlife Division’s executive administrator for fish management and research.

Carter added that while Tyson’s departure represents a loss for the Wildlife Division and Lake Erie specifically, his move to the Commission really represents a plus for the entire Great Lakes and its mammoth fisheries diversity.

“We were surprised, sure, about Jeff’s move but all of us certainly recognize that someone as capable as he is – with all of his talents and with a great resume – deserved to take the job when presented with such a tremendous opportunity,” Carter said.

Carter said also that replacing Tyson will encompass a search that will begin immediately; a task made more difficult by the fact that Tyson was a perfect fit as the Lake Erie fisheries project administrator.

Regardless of who eventually replaces Tyson, the work of managing Lake Erie’s fisheries will continue without missing a heartbeat, Carter says as well.

That effort will remain focused on properly managing Ohio’s share of Lake Erie’s walleye and yellow perch fisheries “because they are critically important for our anglers and the economic health of our region,” Carter says.

And the new, still-to-be-named administrator will likewise focus on helping the “viability” of Lake Erie’s smallmouth bass and largemouth bass populations along with the Wildlife Division’s goal of restoring the Lake’s once thriving sauger population, Carter said.

“We’re confident we’ll find someone to lead our Lake Erie fisheries program into the future,” Carter said.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. Jeff is the recipient of more than 125 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Physics works against Ohio Wildlife Division officer's pick-up

The Pauli Exclusion Principal to the contrary, Ohio Division of Wildlife officer Brad St. Clair saw firsthand on July 28th the consequences of quantum mechanics as to how two bodies cannot occupy the same space at the same time.

While headed in a certain direction on one of Noble County’s ubiquitous narrow and serpentine backcountry road, St Clair’s state-owned, seven-foot-wide 2012 GMC pick-up truck met a seven-foot-nine-inch wide 2001 Dodge pick-up coming from the other direction.

However, the problem was that the point where the two vehicles met at the top of a blind crest is only 13 feet across and festooned on either side with Noble County hard rock.

Consequently, it was crunch time with both vehicles suffering the effects of physics; each in spite of the fact that St. Clair was piloting his Wildlife Division-issued truck at a creeping-along speed of just 15 miles per hour while the Dodge wasn’t inching forward much faster: Only 25 miles per hour.

No way, however, could either vehicle come close to the road’s legal allowance of 55 miles per hour, also says a Wildlife Division official.

St. Clair was on routine patrol when the accident occurred. He’s been the state wildlife officer assigned to Noble County for the past eight years and graduated from the agency’s wildlife officer cadet academy in 2003. Previously St. Clair had postings in both Van Wert and Fairfield counties; zones with much flatter terrain and often much straighter and wider country roads.

Though the Dodge pick-up was up to be driven away under its own power, St. Clair’s GMC needed assistance from a tow truck, said Wildlife Division assistant chief Susan Vance.

Vance added that neither driver was cited by the Ohio Highway Patrol which investigated the incident. No word yet on the degree of damage to St. Clair's pick-up truck, Vance said.

“If you’ve ever been to Noble County and its curvy, narrow, steep, hilly roadways, it should come as no surprise that both drivers were travelling at reduced rates of speed in an effort to be safe,” Vance said. “State employees are people, and accidents do happen. Everyone here is really thankful that everybody is okay.”

Vance said that in addition to the accident being looked into by the Ohio Highway Patrol, Wildlife Division administrative protocols were followed as well.

These building blocks of procedures included input from various agency supervisors, the state’s Department of Administrative Services along with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Office of Human Resources, Vance said.

And with a fleet consisting of some 377 registered vehicles, Vance says also, the Wildlife Division’s track record of avoiding traffic accidents is stellar in every respect. This safe driving regimen is particularly true given the wide array of drivers that includes commissioned officers, hatchery workers, maintenance crews, administrators, and educators – the whole lot of employees tasked with driving motor vehicles, Vance says.

So good is this attention to driving defensively that no one in the agency could recall any Wildlife Division employee ever being killed in a motor vehicle accident while on the clock, Vance said.

“We have vehicles travelling 365 days a year at all times of the day and night, on road, off road, hauling boats, trailers, and equipment; all across the state, and sometimes travelling out of state when needed,” Vance said. “All in all, our staff does a great job of focusing on safety – which in turn helps us manage state equipment, including vehicles.”
- Jeffrey L Frischkorn

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Ohio Wildlife Division's "Operation North Coast" a massive law enforcement undertaking

After more than two years of tracking down leads and tips - as well as performing extensive investigative operations by 45 of its officers - the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife has seen charges brought to date against 28 Ohioans for various alleged illegal fish and game activity.
The charges stemming from the agency’s “Operation North Coast” range from such routine and mundane alleged misdemeanor violations as hunting without the permission of the landowner and one deer-check-in issue, to such alleged felonies as “engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity,” “tampering with records,” and “felony sale of wildlife.”
Several of the accused individuals have pled out to at least some of their charges, says officials with the Wildlife Division.
Also, at least one of the individuals currently charged with alleged fish or game law violations has encountered prior arrests for breaking the state’s fish and game laws.
Ohio’s Wildlife Division officials first made public its “Operation North Coast” back in early March and as reported in the March 29th issue of “Ohio Outdoor News.”
At the time the agency reported that its “Operation North Coast” was still an on-going investigation that involved some 40 individuals in 10 of Ohio’s 88 counties, and that the Wildlife Division had received various courts’ permission to serve search warrants.
Counties where arrest warrants have thus far been obtained include Wood, Lucas, Henry, Lorain, and Richland.
Wildlife Division spokesman John Windau said in an interview with “Ohio Outdoor News” in March that the agency’s law enforcement agents’ work included at least two deer-hunting seasons plus last summer’s walleye-fishing season.
Some of the investigative work was done secretively by the Wildlife Division’s corps of undercover commissioned agents, added Ronald L. Ollis, supervisor of the agency’s special operations wing.
Ollis says too that the Wildlife Division continues to investigate other individuals who may have allegedly committed various state fish and game law violations. If the Wildlife Division determines that additional people have allegedly broken the state’s fish and game laws then likely more charges will be forthcoming, Ollis says.
As for the alleged crimes themselves, Ollis noted that more so than the alleged buyers of fish and game were the alleged sellers of such wildlife, calling the latter the operation’s “big fish.”
“I don’t know if ‘Operation North Coast’ is the largest investigation we’ve ever done or not,” Ollis said. “Certainly, if additional charges are brought against others then, yes, it could become the largest such operation in our history.”
Besides the state’s alleging that illegal selling of fish and game occurred there was evidence that suggests how “gross over-harvesting” of deer occurred in at least some instances, Windau said as well at the time.
Windau said too in March that the genesis of the investigation was in large part prompted by calls to the state’s Turn-In-A-Poacher (TIP) hotline; a toll-free telephone project that allows the public to call in with possible fish and game law violations. Tipsters are potentially eligible for monetary rewards.
Also, said Windau in March, that while the investigation did not have a deliberate “connect-the-dots” scenario about it, “Operation North Coast” investigators were able to channel their energies and work at alleged similar illegal activity elsewhere; thereby evolving a cascade effect.
Similarly, Windau said in March, the Wildlife Division was working closely with various county prosecutors who are the persons legally empowered to file charges though with extensive input from the agency.
Wildlife Division officials maintained a collective bell of silence covering its agents’ investigations through the remainder of the spring and into the summer.
As the process has unfolded, the Wildlife Division said in a statement that on August 4th its agents served an arrest warrant on Robert Mandon Freeworth (age 36), Grand Rapids, Ohio.
Freeworth was indicted by a Wood County grand jury earlier in the week. He was indicted on various felony and misdemeanor counts for alleged fish and game law-related misdeeds. The alleged felonies include: engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, sales of wildlife, having weapons under disability, improperly handling firearms in a motor vehicle (three counts), tampering with records (two counts), and aggravated possession of drugs.
Freeworth’s alleged misdemeanors include: using weapons while intoxicated (2 counts), jacklighting, hunting without permission of the landowner, and wildlife violations (3 counts).
If convicted, Freeworth faces incarceration, fines, wildlife restitution, community control sanctions, suspension or revocation of any fishing and hunting licenses, the re-imbursement for investigative cost, and the forfeiture of firearms and a vehicle.
Further, the Wildlife Division says, Wood County’s Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Gwen Howe-Gebers has been working with state wildlife investigators on the case.
“The investigation was well executed and prepared which is a testament to the ODNR investigative unit in making sure rules and regulations are followed by all,” Howe-Gebers said in a prepared statement. “The cases demonstrate that those who hunt illegally need to be held accountable for their actions.”
As for the Wildlife Division, the agency’s law enforcement administrator Ken Fitz said “The indictment demonstrates the seriousness of wildlife crimes and commercialization that was taking place in the Wood County area.”
Besides charges being filed against Robert Mandon Freeworth (age 36), Grand Rapids, Ohio, others who’ve thus far been charged with alleged fish and game law violations include (Note that some of the defendants have all ready appeared in court and received judicially applied punishment):

Dawn Large (age 42), Grand Rapids, Ohio:

  • No hunting license - (Wood County, Bowling Green Municipal Court, M-4).
  • Hunting without permission  (Wood County, Bowling Green Municipal Court, M-3).
  • hunting deer with aid of motor vehicle – (Henry County, Napoleon Municipal Court, M-3).
  • shooting from or across a roadway (Henry County, Napoleon Municipal Court., M-3).
  • possessing a firearm while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (Henry County, Napoleon Municipal Court, M-1).
    Robert V. Freeworth (age 59), Grand Rapids, Ohio:
  • Two counts aiding another in a wildlife violation - Aiding in Henry County, Napoleon Municipal Court, M-1 Second Offense Deer Violation, $500.00 fine plus $156.00 CC, 3 years hunting and fishing license suspension). Wood County charge not finished.
    Ronnie L. Borders (age 34), Weston, Ohio:
  • Deer check-in violation (Wood County, Bowling Green Municipal Court. M-1, Second Offense Deer Violation).
    Jo L. Sears (age 62), Bowling, Green, Ohio:
  • Purchase wild animal or part thereof  (Wood County, Bowling Green Municipal Court., M-3).
    Robert Parker Jr. (age 64), Portage, Ohio:
  • Purchase wild animal or part thereof (Wood County, Bowling Green Municipal Court, M-3).
    Shawn Matthews (age 34), Grand Rapids, Ohio:
  • Purchase wild animal or part thereof (Wood County, Bowling Green Municipal Court, M-3).
    William Seyfried (age 70), Gibsonburg, Ohio:
  • Purchase wild animal or part thereof (Wood County, Bowling Green Municipal Court., M-3).
    Rodney Hall (age 44), Bowling Green, Ohio:
  • Purchase wild animal or part thereof (Wood County, Bowling Green Municipal Court., M-3).
    Jarod Sinning (age 39), Bowling Green, Ohio:
  • Purchase wild animal or part thereof (2 counts) (Wood County, Bowling Green Municipal Court, M-3).
    Albert Tift Jr. (age 63), Toledo, Ohio:
  • Purchase wild animal or part thereof (Lucas County, Sylvania Municipal Court., M-3.)
    Matthew Langlois (age 40), Waterville, Ohio:
  • Theft by deception (Lucas County, Maumee Municipal Court., M-1).
    Samuel Young (age 65), Liberty Center, Ohio:
  • Purchase wild animal or part thereof (Henry County, Napoleon Municipal Court. M-3).
    Lawrence Turner (age 39), Toledo, Ohio:
  • Theft by deception (Lucas County, Maumee Municipal Court., M-1, but as part of plea agreement amended to  a M-4 unauthorized use of property, $250 plus $180 court costs. Also Turner was ordered to pay Maumee Bait and Tackle back his half of prize money totaling $187.50. Turner likewise is prohibited to have any contact with Maumee Bait and Tackle, and is further prohibited from entering into any fishing tournaments on the Maumee River for a period of three years).
    Rick Bruielly (age 66), Weston, Ohio:
  • Failure to keep and maintain proper taxidermy records (Wood County, Bowling Green Municipal Court, M-4, paid $100.00 fine and $145.00 court costs).
    Louis Takas (age 49), Toledo, Ohio:
  • Failure to keep and maintain proper processor records (Lucas County, Toledo Municipal Court.  M-4, No fine, assessed $99 in court costs).
    Beth Blaze (age 46), Swanton, Ohio:
  • Purchase wild animal or part thereof – (Lucas County, Maumee Municipal Court, M-3. Paid $75 fine, assessed $130 in court costs).
    Jason Szczublewski (age 40,) Maumee, Ohio:
  • Purchase wild animal or part thereof (Lucas County, Maumee Municipal Court, M-3. Paid $100 fine, assessed $105 in court costs).
    Cyndal Waldvogel (age 30), Grand Rapids, Ohio:
  • Purchase wild animal or part thereof (Lucas County, Maumee Municipal Court. Court, M-3. Paid $35.00 fine, assessed $130 in court costs).
    Roger Havens (age 70), Port Clinton, Ohio:
  • Felony sale of wildlife (two counts) - (Ottawa County, Ottawa County Municipal Court, F-5)
    Steven Rider (age 57), Port Clinton, OH:
  • Three counts sale of wildlife (sport fish)- (Ottawa County, Ottawa County Municipal Court, M-4)
    Carl Taylor Jr. (age 57,) Lorain, Ohio:
  • Felony sale of wildlife (Four counts), illegal use of supplemental nutrition assistance program (Seven counts) - In conjunction with Ohio Department of Public Safety, Ohio Investigative Unit. (Lorain County, Lorain County Common Pleas Court, F-5).
    Melissa Taylor (age 36), Lorain, Ohio:
  • Illegal use of supplemental nutrition assistance program - In conjunction with Ohio Department of Public Safety, Ohio Investigative Unit- (Lorain County, Lorain County Common Pleas Court, F-5).
    Victor Velez (age 35),Cleveland, Ohio:
  • Sale of wildlife (sport fish) - (One felony and Two misdemeanor counts), receiving stolen property- In conjunction with Ohio Department of Public Safety, Ohio Investigative Unit.- (Lorain County, Lorain County Common Pleas Court, F-5 and Two M-4s, receiving stolen property, M-1).
    Carmillo Gonzales (age 57), Lorain, Ohio:
  • Sale of wildlife (sport fish) - In conjunction with Ohio Department of Public Safety, Ohio Investigative Unit.- (Lorain County, Lorain Municipal Court, M-4).
    Dennis Urig (age 64), Sheffield Lake, Ohio:
  • Felony sale of wildlife (deer), deer hunting violations (Two counts) - (Lorain County, Lorain County Common Pleas Court, F-5 on sale, M-3 on deer violations).
    Anthony Lenz (age 31), Grafton, Ohio:
  • Felony sale of wildlife (sport fish)- (Lorain County, Lorain County Common Pleas Court, F-5).
    Ronald Gasparac (age 60), Mansfield, Ohio:
  • Felony sale of wildlife (sport fish) (Three counts) (Richland County, Richland County Common Pleas Court, F-5).
    Degrees of penalty under the Ohio Revised Code. Here is a list of the maximum penalties that can be applied:
     Fourth Degree Misdemeanor (M-4 -  no more than 30 days jail and/or up to $250 fine.
    Third Degree Misdemeanor (M-3) -  no more than 60 days jail and/or up to $500 fine.
    Second Degree Misdemeanor (M-2) - no more than 90 days jail and/or up to $750 fine.
    First Degree Misdemeanor (M-1)  - no more than 180 days jail and/or up to $1000 fine.
     Fifth Degree Felony (F-5) – up to1 year imprisonment and/or up to $2,500 fine.
    “The other alleged crimes have specific penalties, depending upon the paragraph which they are convicted,” said Ronald L. Ollis, the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s Special Operations Supervisor. “I would say the penalties include the possibility of significant jail sentences and fines along with what other community control sanctions the court wishes to apply.”  
     A license revocation and restitution could be applied to all the defendants with wildlife violations (including sales and purchases). The Wildlife Division typically requests for that for those who are selling, based on the facts of the case.
    Three of the charged individuals with known prior fish and game law arrest history are:
     Robert Mandon Freeworth  - (Two) priors; one on 10/8/2015 for taking yellow perch over the limit, and the second on 11/14/1997 for trapping muskrats during the closed season.
    Robert V. Freeworth – (One) prior on 12/5/2000 for hunt/take/shoot deer from roadway or motor vehicle.
    Ronald Borders – (One) prior for deer-tagging violation.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn