Friday, February 11, 2011

Wildlife Division snowshoe hare researcher defends work

A research student hired by the Ohio Division of Wildlife to conduct field work on Northeast Ohio’s snowshoe hare project disputes arguments made by some agency officials as to his performance.

Likewise, says Matt Drda, from his extensive work the several-year project seems to have closed in on a dead end.

Drda said he did not quit college nor did he leave just a cluttered stack of notes for state biologists to sift through.

“I never quit school I’m currently enrolled at Cuyahoga Community College finishing up my degree which will still be from The Ohio State University,” Drada said in an E-mail sent today.

The decision to return to his West Side home was for family reasons, Drda says.

“Leaving OSU was a choice I had to make,” he said.

As for the snowshoe hares themselves, Drda says the species’ population “is extremely low.”

“From my research there isn’t a suitable population for them to make a comeback into the state,” Drda said via another E-mail.

“I talked to hundreds of people in there area and only a handful have even seen any snowshoes since the releases. Some of these people were active hunters and trappers as well. Who are in the woods on a daily basis.”

Drda says the habitat into which the hares were released has begun to change, going from first stage successional to more mature open hard and soft woods.

Thus, Drda contends, “predators can easily find the hares in these areas due to the lack of cover.”

“I feel that when they did the releases there wasn’t any organization as to thoughts in the future as to how the hares would adjust to the habitats,” Drda said.

Drda did add that he received strong support from the staff of the Wildlife Division’s Grand River Wildlife Area in Trumbull County.

“...they worked in helping to get me on snowshoes and that they were very knowledgeable about the area,” Drda said of the Grand River Wildlife Area staff.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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