Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Possible cougar sighting in Jefferson County by Ohio Wildlife Division officer

First there were bears and then bobcats, but now mountain lions?

It may seem so as an off-duty officer with the Ohio Division of Wildlife has reported to agency officials that he observed what may be a mountain lion July 29 in the Wintersville area of Jefferson County. 

This location is near the 3,032-acre Fernwood State Forest.

The closest large community in the region is Steubenville, located along the Ohio River.

Fernwood State Forest contains the remnants of coal extraction and is considered remote and rugged with many small lakes and ponds and consists of mature mixed hardwoods.

Wildlife Division officials and local police are in the area, scouting for any sign of the would-be mountain lion, also commonly called a cougar or panther.

Agency officials further say that it's District Three (Northeast Ohio) Office in Akron will field reports of any similar potential sightings. Those sightings can be called in the District office at 330-644-2293.

Likewise the agency sent safety tips to area schools and such for distribution to athletic and cross-country teams, the material noting how to avoid conflicts.

While little is known as to whether this sighting is genuine or not the Wildlife Division also is reviewing its records of people licensed to own such animals.

Oho recently stiffened its laws regulating exotic wild animals including the requirement of site inspection of any facility and additional permitting protocols.

And even though periodic and scattered reports of mountain lions in Ohio have cropped up in virtually all instances the to-date consensus has been either the creature in question was misidentified or else was deliberately released or an escaped animal.

State biologists do say that if the sighting was genuine and the animal was a wild mountain lion then in all likelihood it was young male. That is because young male lions and young male black bears both share a trait that once sent on their way by its mother the animal is looking for new territory to set up a home range.

Yet if the lion did exist and was seen that does not mean it is still in Jefferson County. Mountain lions have extensive home ranges and can move as far as 20 miles per day, said Jamey Emmert, public information specialist for the agency's District Three office.

Ohio is within the species' original per-European settlement range, says the national non-profit Cougar Fund.

The Cougar Fund says no known population of cougars exist in the state, having been extirpated long ago.

“The closest known breeding east-to-west population of mountain lions is northwest Nebraska, and north-to-south breeding population is the Florida panther,” said Penny Maldonado, the Cougar Fund's managing director.

That being said, Maldonado also noted that the Wildlife Division is spot on by saying how young male mountain lions occasionally wander far from their natal homes.

“It's called dispersal,” she said.

As far as a mountain lion posing a high risk to humans, such is rarely the case, says Maldonado.

“There have been just 20 known human fatalities by mountain lions over the past 120 years,” Maldonado says. “That's not to diminish the tragedy in each of these cases but many more children are killed from falls out of shopping carts than by mountain lion attacks.

"The greatest threat to us and to the cats is our own fear.”

For further information about the Cougar Fund, contact Maldonado at

- 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. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 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.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Ohio's seven national park sites are popular revenue generators

Ohio's small packet of national park sites, monuments and areas are all valuable commodities to the state's economy.

In a review and analysis of visitors attracted to the handful of National Park Service sites in Ohio, a total of 2.4 million visits were logged in 2013. And these visitors spent $149 million, supporting 2,300 jobs, says Patricia Trapp, the Park Service's acting director for the agency's 12-state Midwest Region and which includes Ohio.

Both the number of visitors and the expenditure figures are lower than in 2012. The reason, the Park Service's annalists determined, was due in large measure to the ordered shuttering of most federal government activities in October 2013.

That is when the federal spending debate between the Congress and Obama Administration reached a fever pitch, resulting in a temporary cut-off of tax dollars intended to keep the government wheels moving.

In all, Ohio hosts seven National Park Service sites. They include the 25.38-acre Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial on South Bass Island, the 4.9-acre James A. Garfield National Historic Site in Mentor, the 20,339-acre Cuyahoga Valley National Park between Akron and Cleveland, the First Ladies National Historic Site in Canton, the 1,770-acre Hopewell Culture National Historic Park, the three-acre William Howard Taft National Historic Site, and the 86-acre Dayton Aviation National Historic Park (Wright Brothers bicycle shop and other historical attributes) in Dayton.

Attendance varies widely with these sites, too. They range from fewer than 15,000 visitors annually for each of the two presidential sites (Garfield and Taft) to slightly more than 2 million for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Never-the-less all of Ohio's National Park holdings are important in the telling of the country's history and culture as well as providing recreational and educational opportunities, says Trapp.

“Whether it's a day trip or a long family vacation, visitors comes for a great experience and in the process they contribute money to the local economy,” Trapp said.

Trapp also said the peer-reviewed report notes that national park tourism overall is an important economic driver, returning $10 for every $1 invested by the National Park Service.

Also, says Trapp, the report notes that 274 million visits were made nationally in the abbreviated 2013 calendar year. Even so, direct spending by these visitors was $14.6 billion, supporting 237,000 jobs.

“This reality makes national parks tourism an important factor in Ohio's economy as well,” Trapp said. also. “It's a result we all can appreciate and support.”

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Will Ohio's deer hunters embrace the new straight-walled rifle caliber option?

With an ever-swelling quiver of weaponry being made available, Ohio's deer hunters will have unparalleled options to choose from this autumn.

Whether these hunters will eagerly embrace going afield with a rifle firing one of 27 different strait-walled cartridges or head out with a handgun, use a crossbow/longbow/compound bow, a muzzleloading rifle or stick with a tried-and-true slug-firing shotgun remains an unanswered deer-camp question.

Yet letting history be something of a guide, few of these hunters will heft a handgun and fewer still will succeed using some form archery tackle, let alone spending hundreds of dollars for a high-power rifle to add to their stock-in-trade.

And statistics is what properly fuels how the agency's deer-management program and its sub-routines function. Just ask the Wildlife Division's officials whose job it is to make the tough decisions.

As it stands, the 2013 general firearms deer-hunting season saw only 277 deer killed by longbows, 483 with crossbows, and 805 with handguns. Even muzzle-loading rifles accounted for just 11,093 deer shot during the 2013 general firearms deer-hunting season.

That leaves the bulk of that season's deer popped by the use of shotguns, be they firing the old-style Foster-type rifled slugs or the much more popular sabot-encasing slugs. This form of projectile accounted for 62,750 deer, says Mike Tonkovich, the Wildlife Division's deer management administrator.

So whether or not Ohio's newly approved adoption of the designated set of 
straight-walled rifle calibers will send more state resident hunters into the field, such is not likely to occur, says Tonkovich.
“There is a mountain of data that strongly suggests hunters will simply swap out one implement for another; a 'this for that,' exchange,” Tonkovich says.

As to if the addition of allowing straight-walled rifle cartridges will prick the interest of non-residents who otherwise took a pass on hunting Ohio because of its shotgun rule, “that's a great question but not an easy one to answer,” Tonkovich also says.

Bolstering his belief that non-residents probably won't plant their deer-hunting flag in Ohio simply because of expanded firearms usage opportunities, fully 60 percent do so during the state's archery deer-hunting season, says Tonkovich.

Consequently, the minority of Ohio's non-resident deer hunters are afield during either the statewide muzzle-loading season or else the general statewide firearms deer-hunting season.

Thus, Tonkovich simply does not see a legion of non-residents coming here because Ohio will allow the use of a couple dozen straight-walled rifle calibers. 
Some of which, by-the-way,  are so obscure that one may wonder how long they've been laid to rest in the graveyard of blackpowder rifle caliber history. Among the approved calibers that leave some dedicated gun cranks scratching their heads are the .45-110, the .50-70 and the .50-90.
Of course some oldies remain goodies. With modern-era rifles being crafted from 
modern-era metals capable of handling more robust smokeless powders, several of these gray-beard calibers take a back seat to no one.

Take the .45-70 as one such example. Early handicapping suggests this caliber may very will be the most popular straight-walled caliber seen afield this coming firearms deer-hunting season. Surprising in no small measure given that the .45-70 was adopted by the federal government way back in 1866.

And this caliber has undergone some considerable tweaking. The Hornady LeverRevolution brand is a perfect illustration of such an enhancement. This particular brand includes a 325-grain bullet whose pointed snout is plastic (the better to be used in tubular magazines).

At 100 yards a .45-70 LeverRevolution cartridge has a speed of 1,729 feet per second and arm-wrestles with 2,158 foot pounds of energy. Out to 200 yards and those figures are 1,450 and 1,516, respectively.

Even the LeverRevolution's .45-70 product drops only 4.10 inches at 200 yards.

But the .45-70 must share the podium with several modern-era calibers. The .500 Smith and Wesson, the .478 Linebaugh each possess impressive ballistics.

Still, the statistics generated by the ever-evolving stable of sabot rifled slugs available today in every shotgun gauge from the 12 on down to the .410 are nothing to sneeze at either.

A shotgun slug's high weight retention, speed and energy (Hornady's popular 12-gauge SST's 100-yard ballistics of 1,641 feet per second and 1,793 foot-pounds of energy) all rival or sometimes can exceed those provided by the approved straight-walled rifle calibers.

Neither are the bullets launched from today's muzzle-loading rifles any kind of wall flower when it comes to whacking a deer.

Fueled with 150 grains of TripleSeven blackpowder substitute, PowerBelt's .50-caliber, 270-grain Platinum Aero-Lite bullet is still traveling 1,828 feet per second at 100 yards with 1,855 foot pounds of energy.

So who likely will and who likely won't convert from the knowns of shotgun/muzzle-loaders for the unknowns of straight-walled rifle cartridges?

Depends on who you ask, even within the hierarchy of the Wildlife Division.

No, I don't believe I will,” said Scott Zody, the Wildlife Division's chief when asked if he plans to buy and use a rifle chambered for one of the approved straight-walled calibers.

Instead, Zody says he'll stick with his muzzle-loading rifle, even during the state's general firearms deer-hunting season.

Not needing to reconsider is Tom Rowan, one of the Wildlife Division's assistant chiefs.

A gun crank of the highest order, Rowan was a component of the group that rifled through the maze of potential calibers to come up with the current assembly of approved picks.

Among other partners in the caliber selection process were members associated with the Buckeye Firearms Association and members of the Cowboy Action community; each person seeming to have a rational reason for suggesting a caliber or two.

I want to harvest my first Ohio deer with a rifle by using my .38-55,” Rowan said, adding that particular chambering is found in a commemorative lever-action firearm he owns.

Although Rowan's admits that while his caliber of choice is a bit outside the orbit of more commonly known and approved straight-walled versions, several others are not. Beside the .45-70 other likely popular calibers very well may include the .44 Magnum and two of the list's true heavyweights: The .375 Winchester and the .444 Marlin, says Rowan.

I really think you'll also see a lot of .357 Magnums being used by kids during the youth-only gun season,” Rowan said. “If shots are kept to around 50 yards several of the smaller approved calibers will get the job done.”

As to whether hunters who will go afield with a particular form of rifle, Rowan believes that lever-action rifles will dominate. That is a belief typically shared by firearms dealers I contacted in an informal poll.

Virtually to a dealer these business people said they're seeing an increased interest by potential buyers for a rifle though almost to a person those inquiries are for lever-action rifles.

Sadly then while my newly acquired .45-70 H&R Buffalo Classic and its old-timey style of peep and globe sighting system stands tall in the accuracy department, I appear to be largely alone in my selection of a single-shot rifle.

Even so, the last volley regarding what possible other straight-walled calibers will find approval has yet to be heard. It is more than plausible the list may see growth in the years ahead, said Rowan.

Leaping ahead into the unknown, is the speculation that allowing AR-style semi-automatic rifles chambered in equally powerful straight-walled calibers;  well, one step at a time, says Rowan.

We have to move conservatively,” Rowan said, deflecting for now the question as to whether Black Rifles will one day find their way into Ohio's deer-hunting woods.

- 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. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 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.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Old is the "new new even as wife knows how to hold hand until the end

Okay so this is how it went down.

Bev and I are on the hunt for a good, reliable, dependable, fuel efficient and comfortable vehicle to get us around town and all. Little Red - my 2005 Hyundai Tucson - has 172,000  hard-earned miles and is showing signs of old age.

However, do not let its interior (shall we say, unique uniqueness surprise you. When you frequently run the hills, streams, gas-line right-of-ways, tractor paths and striking a course around a small Ashtabula County lake to get to the goose-hunting blind you're going to develop some age-related squeaks, groans, rattles and other alien sounds that are more typical of an old man trying to get up from his recliner than a healthy stallion prancing about.

Little Red's rear wiper motor no longer functions, the lever used to adjust the steering wheel's angle is stuck in place, Millie became so excited once that her canine dance-about caused the cup holder cover to break.

Oh, and all the while the rubber engine motor mounts have begun to deteriorate to the point where you get some pretty fair shimmying as the motor vibrates when the engine downshifts.

There's a few other examples of why the Tucson is ready for the Old Folks' home. Passengers frequently express fear, desperately worried that something big and hairy is going to crawl out of the mire and squalor that has grown up from the floor. And not too long ago the granddaughter of a fellow church member who was forced by circumstances to ride in Little Red asked after the short trip when I was going to clean her out.

Kids can say the funniest things though I suspect that either Bev or the girl's grandmother put the poor thing up to asking the question. I, on the other hand, view the Tucson's interior as a major family archeological site; a place to discover treasurers long believed to have disappeared or even become extinct.

Even so, ESS Automotive in Mentor continually remarks that what is ugly on the outside it is what's inside that matters the most. Which is why the car repair firm never hesitates to comment on how well Little Red ticker has been attended to; things like frequent oil changes, replacing tires, getting tune ups as they become due, and always keeping on top of fluid levels so that the machine's engine has never gasped for lack of care.

Still, it is time. For this reason the work has begun in at least supplementing Little Red. The field of potential candidates is narrowing, I've spent many hours scouting local car dealers, visiting their on-line inventories, examining CarFax reports and such.

With that in mind, Bev and I have found a couple of dandy Nissan Rogues as our primary targets. One is a 2013 model with around 26,000 miles, silver in color, standard clothe furnishings, and generally a right comfortable ride.

Oh, and the mileage is better than what the Tucson ever afforded. Bev and I know this because two years ago we rented a virtually identical Rouge to travel to Bev's folks in Florida.

The second Rogue is one year older and with about 12,000 more miles. However - and this is the good part - this particular Rouge has all the whistles and bells for the same price, give or take the contents of a child's piggy bank.

Its cake icing features a sun/moon roof, a very well maintained leather interior, heated seats (the better to soothe the back and help prevent old peoples' complaints about sore behinds), a rear-facing/back-up camera, a working SatNav system, and a stunning high-society shiny coal-black exterior.

On the downside our test drive had the Rogue sounding more like a roaring lion than a tame tabby. A quick inspection indicated the tires were ready for recycling with the possibility of a damaged rear wheel bearing or else out-of-round/improperly balanced tires. The salesman said he'd speak with the dealer's shop manager and see how best to resolve the issue.

Yep, it is a fancy-pants vehicle to be sure but Little Red needs assistance. It no longer ought to be called on for every day outdoorsy use since it has its share of health-related issues - none of which, by the way, are covered by ObamaCare. And the poor thing's Blue and Black Book value say it is worth only around $1,500 to $2,500.

So we determined to keep Little Red as the preferred HuntMobile whereby Berry and Millie can slobber their canine slime to their Labrador retriever hearts and I can use the passenger side floor as a temporary receptacle for emptied Dunkin' Donut coffee cups, discarded copies of The News-Herald and a place to toss peach pits and apple cores. All on a very temporary basis, of course.

This way "Raven" (as we have temporary called it) could be kept clean and on stand-by for whenever a long-distance hunting or fishing trip is needed or simply if I just want to use it to truck my shooting gear to the gun club's ranges.

So where we stand now is that I will keep Little Red until the last gasp of her 87 octane breath, we'll buy Raven and then turn in Bev's means of transportation - her Chevy HHR, nicknamed "Henrietta."

What's that, you say? How did Bev's HHR enter this picture? Darned if I know. After all, Henrietta is newer, has fewer than one-half the road miles of Little Red, and does not demand how cleaning crew members are required to wear hazmat suits.

Somehow Little Red and me have been bamboozled by one smart cookie who really understands it's always best to keep your hand close to the vest until the very end.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"We're Number One!" Yes, Ohio, you are in "Outdoor Life's Deer of the Year" contest

Depending on whether you are a county tourism director in Ohio or a deer hunter hoping to keep your corner a secret, the latest issue of "Outdoor Life" magazine will either make you shout "huzzah!' or send tears rolling down your cheeks.

The magazine's latest installment's front page lead story is its annual "Deer of the Year" profile, highlighting "25 bucks and the tactics used to tag them."

In short, a real hook to excite the state's tourism chieftains and win a smiling nod from the deer-management experts with the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

The reason is simple and quickly becomes obvious from both the cover's shot of a mammoth buck and also the spread's opening three pages. Both are devoted to the story of archer Mark Sharp - "a 41-year-old taxidermist from Washington Courthouse, Ohio" who on November 8 of last year arrowed a 21-point buck worth 201 4/8 non-typical inches.

Yet Sharp's deer is not the only Ohio buck taken in 2014 and featured in the "Outdoor Life" piece. Nope, and not by a long TenPoint crossbow long-shot, either.

In fact, of the 25 year profiled in this year's "Outdoor Life Deer of the Year" piece no fewer than six representatives hail from Ohio. That is more than from any other state.

The count shows just two selections came each from Iowa and Illinois. Only Wisconsin seriously nips at Ohio's rear tarsal glands with five displayed representatives.

Besides Sharp and his award-winning buck, the other Ohio "Outdoor Life" magazine honorees are Mark Owen and his 249-inch Pope and Young 22-point buck shot in Wayne County; Chad McKibben's 165-inch Bone & Crocket Club buck taken January 6 during the statewide muzzle-loading season; Mark McDowell of Cincinnati and his 194-inch buck; Shawn Evangelista's 225 5/8 buck taken in Ashtabula County on November 18; and Mark Heitzenrater of Kimbolton, Ohio and his 180-inch buck.

And the magazine likewise says it had received a total of 749 submissions for its 2014 "Deer of the Year" profile. Of this 749 figure, 157 came from Ohio, "the most from any state," the magazine article says.

Now if you are puzzled by a few things regarding "Outdoor Life's" grading, rest assured, there is a method to the magazine editor's madness. While the magazine's print edition offers nothing in the way of what the editors were/are looking for nor why a lower-scoring buck could be profiled more extensively than another, its on-line Internet site does provide guidance.

"Our editors will judge each photo on its quality and tastefulness, the uniqueness of the story behind 
your deer, and the size of your buck and its rack. We're also looking for great stories of first-time successes," the on-line magazine contest guidelines say.

Of course it would be interesting and informative if "Outdoor Life" was more consistent as to which county each of the bucks were taken, by what kind of hunting implement, as well as date of kill.

For further information about the magazine's 2015 "Deer of the Deer" contest project visit its web site at www.OutdoorLife/doy2014.

You'll have to hunt and peck around a little to locate the information, first by noting the second bar from the top of the page where it says "Contests and Sweepstakes."

That key stroke will get you to the "Deer of the Year" page whereupon you'll be directed to the "Enter Here!" page. Here, more information that includes how the contest features something called a " 'Battle of the Bucks' regional face-off," whatever that means.

A list of contest rules is included as well.

As for me, I will be - as I always am - delighted if I can just put some venison in the freezer. A bragging-size rack is icing on the cake.

But best of luck should you arrow or shoot an animal worthy of "Outdoor Life" magazine's interesting big buck photo-and-story contest.

- 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. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 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.

Monday, July 14, 2014

UPDATED: Wildlife Division officers back on duty; driver of fatal high-speed crash charged with two felonies

Even as the Ohio State Highway Patrol continues to investigate the July 6 Clermont County fatal accident involving three Ohio Division of Wildlife officers, the vehicle's driver has been charged with two felony counts of Aggravated Vehicular Homicide.

Charged with the two counts was Paul M. Chisenhall, 36, of Goshen, Ohio, and following his release from Cincinnati's University Hospital on July 9.

It is alleged that Chisenhall attempted to elude Wildlife Division officers after they had attempted to stop a 2005 Saturn L300 sedan near 1,058-acre Stonelick State Park in southwest Ohio's Clermont County.

The three Wildlife Division officers are Jason Keller, who once served as the state wildlife officer assigned to Lake County but now holds the same position in Warren County; Eric Lamb, state wildlife officer assigned to Brown County; and Brian Glodick, a Wildlife Division supervisor.

All three men were placed on paid administrative duty, but returned to full duty - including law enforcement - July 14, said Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Division chief Scott Zody.

The Highway Patrol says the incident began about 7:20 p.m., July 6 – a Sunday. Its official statement says the preliminary and initial investigation reveals that the Saturn “... fled southbound on State Route 727.

“The vehicle crested a hill and the driver lost control. The vehicle traveled off the left side of the road where it struck an embankment and some trees. The vehicle continued across and off the right side of the roadway.”

Besides the driver, Chisenhall, the Saturn's other occupants were Christina M. Singleton, 31, of Newport, KY; Jason C. Wright, 31, of Martinsville, Ohio; and Charles W. McMullen, 34, of Williamsburg, Ohio.

Other known details were that Wright was a rear seat occupant and who was not waring a seat belt while McMullen also was the second rear seat passenger but who was wearing a seat belt restraint at the time of the accident.

Following the accident the three Wildlife Division officers began administering first aid.
However, both men were pronounced dead at the scene with Wright also having been ejected from the vehicle.

For her part, Singleton was the front seat occupant next to Chisenhall and who also was wearing the seat belt/shoulder restraint harness, the Highway Patrol's preliminary investigation report says.
Singleton sustained serious injuries and were life-flighted to University Hospital.

Meanwhile, Chisenhall was transported from the scene by the local township EMS and then life-flighted to University Hospital as well.

As mentioned, following his discharge from University Hospital Chisenhall was taken to the Clermont County Jail where he was then charged with the two F1 felony counts, done so because Chisenhall was driving while under suspension of his driving privileges, said Lt. Wayne Price, commander of the Ohio State Highway Patrol's Clermont County Post.

Based on the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission's latest “Quick Reference Guide,” a F1 felony carries a prison term of up to 11 years, a fine of up to $20,000, or both, and for each count.

Also, one local news account says Chisenhall was found guilty of driving while under the influence of alcohol/drugs in 2002 and again in 2005.

As for the Natural Resources' update, an exhaustive internal review of the incident occurred. That review included that Keller “observed a group of individuals consuming what appeared to be alcoholic beverages and acting disorderly,” said Bethany McCorkle, the agency's chief of communications.

Keller then requested assistance as he also observed what he concluded was littering and entering the Saturn “with what appeared to be open containers of alcohol,” the Natural Resources Department said.

Uniformed then made an attempt to stop the Saturn which sped “...away at a high rate of speed.”

When the officers followed the vehicle and crested a hill the state wildlife personnel saw that the Saturn had already crashed, the Natural Resources Department also says.

These officers then administered first aid until the township EMS arrived.

Following departmental policy to ensure that protocols and policies were followed correctly, the three Wildlife Division were placed on paid administrative.

“The three officers that were involved in the incident in Clermont County have been returned to full duty as of this morning (Monday, July 14),” McCorkle 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. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 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.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Expectant blue-green algae bloom threatens Lake Erie drinking water, fishing

Virtually every consumer of Lake Erie will almost certainly complain there's some nasty green stuff in the water this summer, making the resource's so-called “Dead Zone” an even larger grim reaper.

The federal government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced that Lake Erie - and thus its dependents – will likely encounter an above-average blue-green algae bloom.
Consequently, says NOAA, this year's algae bloom very well become among “the largest (such blooms) in more than a decade.”

The last time such a large and serious event happened in the lake's Central Basin was only three years ago: 2011, says Kevin Kayle, manager of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources/Division of Wildlife's Fairport Harbor Fisheries Research Station.

What such a toxic brew would mean if the federal government's scientific computer modeling stays the course is a larger-than-normal dissolved-oxygen depletion with a simultaneous increase in the lake's Dead Zone in Lake Erie, says Kayle.

“Part of what all of this means for us in this end of the lake is being concerned and watchful about the discharges from the Grand and Cuyahoga rivers and what nutrients they put into the lake,” Kayle said. “So if we see a large rain event that produces a heavy discharge of urban and rural oxygen-depleting nutrients, we could see a significant blue-green algae event.”

Such nutrients are the generator upon which the algae run. As the algae organisms die the process consumes the water's oxygen atoms which – in rough and general terms – had bonded themselves to the water molecules.

And without dissolved oxygen the lake's fishes will have to skedaddle, either moving higher up in the water column or else hightailing it to where the water is not so toxic, says Kayle.

“Yellow perch might even move up the water column by up to 20 feet just to find dissolved oxygen” he said.

Which means that anglers will not be able to simply drop their perch rigs unto the lake's floor and expect a hungry fish to snatch the bait. Instead, anglers will need to watch their fish finders and work at the never-easy-task of fishing for suspended perch, says Kayle.

Then too anglers may very will face the daunting task of locating perch, walleye and steelhead trout on a day-by-day basis. That is because a cloud of blue-green algae is never anchored in one location or consistent in size, shape and texture, says Kayle.

“It's a dynamic process, almost like watching a lava lamp” he said.

And though no massive and toxic cloud blue-green algae has yet to materialize, such an event may weeks – or just, days – away, says Kayle.

“It can happen anytime now where we'll get a hot, still period of weather,” Kayle said.
Of course more than just sport fishing is involved, notes scientists as well as advocates for a healthy Lake Erie.

“We clearly have heard that harmful algal blooms will continue to be a regular occurrence that threatens our drinking water and also robs economically important recreational opportunities around Lake, Erie,” says Adam Rissien, the director of Agriculture and Water Policy for the Ohio Environmental Council.

Rissien also says it is “unacceptable that nutrient pollution has been allowed to pollute Lake Erie so significantly that our drinking water is no longer safe without installing costly treatment options or hooking up alternative sources.”

And while nutrients come from a wide source of applicants the chief culprits are farm fields as well as even existing sewage plants. In the case of the former the unchecked, largely unregulated use of fertilizer is the blue-green algae's meal ticket, says Rissien.

Likewise, aged and under-equipped sewage systems are allowing even more nutrients to help the blue-green algae gorge itself on the bountiful energy source, says Rissien.

We simply can no longer afford to get to the point where we need regular updates or even access a cell phone app for Lake Erie's toxic algae forecast,” Rissien said. “As useful as those tools are, what we really need is an action plan to solve this problem once and for all,” Rissien says.

- 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. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 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.

Monday, July 7, 2014

UPDATED with OHP and fresh ODNR material Three Ohio wildlife officers involved in fatal high-speed chase

A fatal automobile accident in Clermont County July 6 came following a high-speed chase involving three officers with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife.

Among the three officers involved was Jason Keller, who once served as the state wildlife officer assigned to Lake County but now holds the same position in Warren County.

The other two officers were Eric Lamb, state wildlife officer assigned to Brown County; and Brian Glodick, a Wildlife Division supervisor.

All three men are now on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of the accident’s investigation by the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Though the matter remains under investigation, what is known is that officers gave chase around 7 p.m., Sunday, pursuing a Saturn L300 sedan near 1,058-acre Stonelick State Park, near Cincinnati.

Officially the Natural Resources Department responded today (July 8) with this short comment sent via e-mail:

"While working at Stonelick State Park on Sunday July 6, 2014, ODNR Wildlife Officer Jason Keller observed a group of individuals consuming what appeared to be alcoholic beverages and acting disorderly.

"After calling for assistance, he also observed them littering and entering a vehicle with what appeared to be open containers of alcohol.

"Uniformed officers attempted to stop the vehicle, but the vehicle accelerated away at a high rate of speed.

"Following the vehicle, the officers crested a hill to find the vehicle had crashed. They administered first aid until EMS arrived on scene."   

 Local news reports say the Saturn was traveling southbound on State Route 727 when the driver lost control of the vehicle. The vehicle then veered off the left side of the highway, struck an embankment and trees, and continued across the right side of the roadway.

 In the vehicle were four occupants, including the driver, 36-year-old Paul Chisenhall of Goshen.

The other occupants were Christina Singleton, 31, of Newport; Jason Wright, 31, of Martinsville; and 32-year-old Charles McMullen of Willimsburg.

In the course of the subsequent crash, Wright was ejected from the back seat of the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene. He was not wearing a seat belt, local news accounts also report.
McMullen also was pronounced dead at the scene. He too was ejected from the Saturn’s rear seat though he was wearing a seat belt.

Both Singleton and Chisenhall were seriously injured and subsequently life-flighted to University Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati.

Local news accounts report that police say both alcohol and excessive speed played a role in the accident.

One news account adds that Chisehall has previously been convicted of operating a motor vehicle “while under the influence of alcohol/drugs in the past.”

“(Chisenhall) was found guilty of driving under the influence in 2002 and 2005. He was also charged with driving under OVI suspension in 2012 but was convicted of a lesser offense,” said a report from the local Fox 19 television station.

Natural Resources Department spokesman Matt Eiselstein said that the incident remains under investigation by the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

“The ODNR/Division of Wildlife officers will be assisting patrol investigators with this case,” Eiselstein said. “Additional details will be released with the completion of the initial incident report.”

That investigation could take some time, too.

Ohio State Highway Patrol Lt. Wayne Price said today (Tuesday, July 8) that the toxicology test report could take up to eight weeks.

Ditto with reconstruction aspect of the investigation, says Price who is the commander of the Patrol's district Post that includes the accident scene.

Thus the Patrol doesn't want to "beat us up on" completing this investigation, said Price.

"We want to do a good, thorough job, and why we didn't put a time-line on it," Price said.

Currently the Patrol has between four and six of its officers working on the investigation. Among the duties performed thus far by Patrol investigators was interviewing both of the accident survivors; Chisehall and Singleton, Price said.

Price said as well that while Ohio State Highway Patrol officers have yet to interview either Keller, Lamb or Glodnick, that process will come about at some point during the investigation.

The Natural Resources Department has an extensive policy and written guidelines for all of  its officers engaged in high-speed pursuits.

Among the exhaustive guideline’s criteria found immediately under the department’s “Primary Considerations” is this notion, all in capital- and bold-type letters: “1. A PURSUIT IS ONLY JUSTIFIED WHEN THE NECESSITY OF THE APPREHENSION OUTWEIGHS THE LEVEL OF DANGER CREATED BY THE PURSUIT.”

The guideline’s second point says also: “An officer shall exercise due regard for the safety of all persons when conducting a vehicle pursuit.”

Further instructions include that training is required in order to engage in high-speed pursuits, that no more than two Natural Resources vehicles do the pursuing, and that “No Officer will engage in a high-speed vehicle pursuit while driving a four-wheel drive vehicle.”

Procedures likewise spell out what are the documenting requirements and post-review details, each of which provide step-by-step protocols.

Among them is the conducting of an internal review of any incident’s details and subsequent officer response as well as adherence to departmental policy and any applicable Ohio law.

Lastly, under the guidelines’ final “Appendix A” is the policy’s position that officers do have the right to engage in a pursuit so not to allow an alleged violator to escape.

“The termination of a pursuit does not prohibit the following of a vehicle at a safe speed, or remaining in an area to re-initiate pursuit if the opportunity and conditions permit.”

This blog may be updated as further information becomes available.

- 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. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 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.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

10 may become the new 9 as the Army looks to swap out its Beretta M9 pistols

It seems that for the U.S. Army 10 may become the new 9.

Or perhaps 40, or possibly 45; anything larger or more powerful than 9, at least.

Word is that the Army and U.S. Air Force are jointly preparing to ditch its 200,000 or so Beretta Model M9 pistol as the service’s chief handgun.

In its place the Army/Air Force are hot on the trail of acquiring not only a different handgun but also a different caliber.

The required parameters include that whatever replaces the M9 and its 9mm configuration must be of a caliber substantially more powerful. Possibilities could include the .357 SIG, the .40 Smith and Wesson, and the 10mm.

Reports are that the Army/Air Force have been sniffing around for the past few years, looking to replace the M9 and its 9mm chambering which some U.S. veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan believe is too anemic.

Reliability issues with the M9 are a concern as well; veterans’ saying the pistol is easy to become clogged with desert dust and dirt.

As a way of historical footnote, the M9 and its 9mm chambering were approved in 1985. The first order was for 315,930 pistols with a value of $75 million. And in 2002 the U.S. Air Force ordered an additional nearly 19,000 M9s.

Orders from the U.S. government continued with a whopping purchase in 2009 of up to 450,000 M9s with a value of $220 million. Iraq’s government is to get 20,000 of these pistols, based on information available on Beretta’s website.

Should the higher-ups approve the change and if there is capital available as many as 400,000 pistols may be needed.

The government may make a final decision in time for the 2014-2015 budget.

- 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. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 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.