Wednesday, September 26, 2018

(UPDATED) Wildlife Council member-Ashtabula County man named state's top conservation farmer

Ohio Division of Wildlife Wildlife Council member Paul P. Mechling II can now add the title of Top Conservation Farm Family award winner to his repertoire of accomplishments.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture named Mechling and his wife, Joanne, as this year’s conservation family farm honorees for the agency’s Northeast Ohio district.

Besides being on the eight-member Ohio Wildlife Council, Mechling’s day job includes working as a veterinarian along with owning – again with his wife, Joanne – the 365-acre “Snowy Oak Tree Farm” in Ashtabula County.

The Mechling’s operation is an American Forest Foundation certified tree farm, a designation which requires an inspected every five years to verify that the business is practicing sustainable forestry.

In making the announcement, the Agriculture Department says the Mechling’s have planted more than 140,000 trees on reverted agricultural land, built three wetlands in cooperation with the Wildlife Division, and which protects more than 11 acres of wetlands.

Also, Mechling has been an Ashtabula County Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor since 1998, is a well-known maple syrup producer,,and works as a volunteer with the National Wild Turkey Federation in various capacities.

All in addition to serving on the Wildlife Division’s Wildlife Council, which has recently tackled various hot-button issues including whether to allow the trapping of bobcat, a topic the panel has thus far rejected.

Paul is an outstanding council member. He is a very dedicated conservationist, and I’ve known him for years,” said now retired Wildlife Division chief Mike Budzik.

He is a leader who stands up for what is right and he is not afraid to take a position that is contrary to the Division if he knows he is right.”

Budzik added that Mechling “has asked the tough questions concerning many of the Department’s actions,” and possesses a keen intellect while likewise owning a “good measure of common sense.”

I would rank him near the top in terms of being a Wildlife Council member,” Budzik said.

Outdoor writer and an official with Buckeye Firearms likewise says that Mechling is both well informed and thoughtful individual.

He has been key in getting speakers on subjects,” Moore said. “And the chronic wasting disease situation and its relationship with various captive deer herds are also something he’s asked a lot of questions about.”

At press time, Mechling was unavailable for comment.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture annually recognizes five families, each of whom represents one region of the state. This was the 35th year for the awards program, the Agriculture Department says.

Since 1984, the Conservation Farm Family Awards program has recognized 181 Ohio farm families for their efforts conserving soil, water, woodland, wildlife and other natural resources on the land they farm. Conservation farm families also host a variety of educational programs, opening their farms to schools, scout groups, farm organizations and others, the Agriculture Department says.

In addition to receiving $400 each from the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, the families were also featured in the September issue of Ohio Farmer magazine and received plaques from ADS Hancor Inc. Ohio Farmer magazine has sponsored the Ohio Conservation Farm Family Awards since the program's inception.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, September 24, 2018

Lake Metroparks adds to holdings, including 1,600 feet of prime steelhead creek frontage

Lake Metroparks has bought two parcels and is the process of being given a third with two of the units having huge recreational potential.

Among the new acquisitions approved in September by the three-member Lake Metroparks board of park commissioners was one that will offer increased steelhead fishing access to an important Grand River tributary. This 46-acre parcel cost the agency $325,000 and is located along Big Creek in Concord Township, immediately south of Interstate 90 and adjacent to Lake Metroparks’ existing 188-acre Environmental Learning Center.

The property includes some 1,600 linear feet of Big Creek bank and will permit foot access from the agency’s downstream and nearby 63-acre Big Creek at Liberty Hollow Park.

“This access is good news as it will provide increased fishing access to Big Creek and further adds to our Environment Learning Center property, which will allow us to look at expanding our trail system there,” said Vince Urbanski, Lake Metroparks’ deputy director. “There’s a beautiful waterfalls on one of Big Creek’s small tributaries, too. And it’s also a heavily wooded site with a lot of topography.”

Urbanski said the parks system had been working with the property’s previous owners for several years on a possible sale and that now “the timing was right” for the parks system to buy the property.

“We’re always looking to add acres to properties that we all ready own,” said Urbanski who added that the parks system owns or manages on the order of about 9,600 acres.

Less than one-half mile away as the crow flies from this new acquisition the parks system bought a 12-acre site for $135,000. This unit sits alongside the agency-named “Big Creek Corridor” holding located off Williams Road, also in Concord Township. This larger parcel is not generally open to the public though it is managed as a location for controlled archery deer hunting by disabled veterans.

The problem’s been, Urbanski says, that prior to the 12-acre sliver being purchase the parks system was able to access the Big Creek Corridor unit only via a narrow slit not much wider than a motor vehicle. With the new property the parks system will have much more elbow room, Urbanski says.

“There is also a small meadow on the property, and it’s been documented to attract any number of songbird species including bob-o-links,” he said.

Lake Metroparks won’t have to pay a penny to pick up a site along Route 86 in Leroy Township. This unit is being awarded to the parks system with the blessing of both the Ohio and U.S. environmental protection agencies as well as the U.S. Justice Department and the Army Corps of Engineers.

These state and federal entities were involved because the unit was a 340-acre wetlands mitigation project which saw the creation of 34 acres of wetlands along with something on the order of 65 acres of natural wetlands. All of which is largely superimposed by FirstEnergy power lines.

By acquiring the property Lake Metroparks will be able to better manage and manipulate the wetlands there for the benefit of migrating shorebirds and waterfowl, Urbanski says.

And that anticipation will probably lead toward eventual public access in one fashion or another, says Urbanski.

“There is significant potential out there including linking with our adjacent (111-acre) Hidden Lake unit,” he said. “We’ll be exploring all possibilities, knowing that we will have to stay within any restrictions imposed because it was a wetlands mitigation project; but it really could become a great birding location during the fall and spring migration periods.”

- By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Ohio's deer management unit proposal abandons common sense

It is a pity – and wrong-headed – that most participants to the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s recently completed Deer Stakeholders’ series of pow-wows were said to have vigorously nodded “yes” to the concept of a so-called Deer Management Unit system.

Had they not been so enthralled with the siren song by wildlife biologists and shaken their heads so enthusiastically, they might have recognized the idea was impractical and very possibly, unnecessary.

Much in the group’s boringly professorial 57-page report is made of the so-named DMUs (the document is chock-full of bureaucratic-inspired acronyms). Thing is, these proposed deer management units are nothing more than a gerrymandered system that uses highways and natural features instead of the current, easily recognized county-based system to describe what bag limits apply.

The defect here is the assumption that somehow the deer herd on one side of a two-lane is larger (or smaller) than a deer herd on the road’s other side, and thus is in need of either more liberal or more conservative regulations. That failing was brought up and had to be amended during the now largely forgotten Urban Deer Zone era.

Close to home here in Lake County the ill-advised nature of the zones is clearly evident. The report’s mention of the deer management units – and a proposed map that was presented recently before the eight-member Ohio Wildlife Council – demonstrates the poverty of such a deer management unit plan.

Lake County is the smallest of the state’s 88. And yet the proposed map slices no fewer than seven of Lake’s townships, villages and cities, splitting them into likely both more liberal and more conservative bag-limit jurisdictions.

Even more telling the proposed map places the entire Holden Arboretum, nearly all of both Kirtland Hills Village and Kirtland City in the same zone as Geauga and Ashtabula counties, two counties with more conservative bag limits. These three entities each allows controlled archery deer hunting for a reason: They have too many deer. Lump them into a zone with greater restrictions and you defeat the purpose of their controlled hunts.

My home county is hardly alone in seeing itself carved up into an array of zones with very possibly conflicting and differing rules and bag limits. Down in the aforementioned Geauga County is South Russell Village, a high-end community that also subscribes to a heavily regulated and controlled archery deer hunt.

State Wildlife officials also make much of the notion that somehow deer management zones are a better system of tooling deer-hunting regulations, including bag limits. The question must be asked: “Better than what?”

Last season Ohio’s deer hunters shot 186,247 deer and season before that, 182,169 animals; and the season before that, 188,335 deer; and the season before that, 175,745 white-tails.

Oh, let’s not forget this other important detail. Ohio’s has a reputation for being one of the country’s best states for producing trophy-class bucks. In fact, “Buckmasters” magazine ranks Ohio as Number Two, just behind Illinois. “North American Whitetail puts Ohio at Number Six while “Peterson’s Hunting” places Ohio also at Number Two.

All of this, based on a county-by-county management system, which Ohio has successfully used not just for decades but for several generations. So the question, again, is “better than what?”

Let’s view Ohio’s county-by-county system in a different light. In Jefferson County during the summer of 2017 a serious case of epizootic hemorrhagic disease swept through that politically defined area. So much so that this past deer-hunting season, sportsmen there killed 1,903 deer verses the 2,800 animals that hunters killed during the 2016-2017 season.

If you look at the new Ohio hunting law digest you’ll see that Jefferson County is now excluded from the state’s “Thee Deer County” zone and into a more restrictive and stand-alone two-deer stipulation. Again, this adaptation came about because Jefferson County’s deer kill could be tracked on a weekly basis since the system Ohio uses is county based, not a district-zone one.

Nor is Ohio alone in designating counties instead of squirrely written units to establish deer-hunting regions. Down Texas way – the nation’s Number One deer-producing state – counties are held intact and not chopped up in some bizarre manner.

The same largely applies to Wisconsin, a state that more often than not nationally ranks second in the number of deer taken by hunters. With a couple of exceptions due to the presence of chronic wasting disease where non-county boundaries are employed, the state still incorporates a user-friendly county-based system.

Then, too, Kentucky (to Ohio’s south if some Wildlife Division official needs to know) likewise manages its deer herd with county designations. So does Illinois. And Iowa. All are consistently among the nation’s top deer-hunting states.

Of course Ohio is not Wisconsin, Kentucky or Iowa, let alone Texas. Then again, Ohio is not Montana, Wyoming, or Colorado, either, where deer management zones are the norm.

Bluntly and simply, Ohio ought not to adopt a boutique deer management unit system simply because it is biologically fashionable.

While the current use of county boundaries may be less than perfect, the Wildlife Division’s concept of deer management units without also taking into account the many societal consequences and success demonstrated by history does not a good policy neighbor make.

- By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Saturday, September 15, 2018

State says Lake Erie's 2018 walleye and yellow perch recruitment both outstanding

The following is a straight-up press release from the Ohio Division of Wildlife that states its work demonstrates an exceptional hatch of both Lake Erie walleye and yellow perch this past spring.

These fish should begin entering the system as legal-to-keep fish in about two years. Perhaps the lingering question is the status of Lake Erie's forage base: The stuff these fish will eat as they grow up. With an all ready strong population of mature walleye at least, the health of Lake Erie's forage base becomes ever important.

Anyway, here is the Wildlife Division's take on this year's Lake Erie walleye and perch recruitment.

"COLUMBUS, OH – Early data gathered by wildlife agencies in the western basin of Lake Erie indicate great news for Ohio anglers, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). The 2018 walleye hatch appears to be exceptional, the second highest in the history of the Ohio survey, and the yellow perch hatch was strong, well above its long-term average.

"Each year in August, wildlife agencies from around the western basin of Lake Erie sample the waters using bottom trawls in search of young-of-the-year walleye and yellow perch, with biologists from the ODNR Division of Wildlife conducting bottom trawls at nearly 40 sampling locations.

"Data from these bottom trawl surveys are combined into a basin-wide index, and fisheries biologists compare the figures to previous years to estimate the success of the walleye and yellow perch hatches. These data provide biologists with an initial estimate of how many young fish will enter the fishable population two years later.

"The ODNR Division of Wildlife’s 2018 August trawl survey found 112 walleye per hectare. This is the second highest value on record and far above the 20-year average of 27 walleye per hectare in Ohio waters of the western basin. This year’s outstanding hatch combined with the excellent 2015 year-class will ensure an abundance of young walleye to complement the older and larger fish that make up the current Lake Erie walleye population.

"The ODNR Division of Wildlife’s August western basin trawl survey found the 2018 yellow perch hatch to be very good at 511 yellow perch per hectare. This is above the 20-year average of 316 yellow perch per hectare in Ohio waters of the western basin. This above average yellow perch hatch should help bolster the yellow perch population in the western basin and maintain quality yellow perch fishing.

"Initial reports from bottom trawl surveys conducted by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry in Ontario waters of the western basin showed similar results, with walleye catches well above average and strong yellow perch catches. During the upcoming months,

"Ohio and Ontario bottom trawl data will be combined to estimate the basin-wide hatches of walleye and yellow perch. These estimates will be used in the process to determine jurisdictional quotas.

"Central basin trawl surveys in July and August are usually impacted by low oxygen conditions that cause young-of-the-year fish to school or concentrate in nearshore areas.

"Estimates for the central basin will be available from the September trawl surveys after the data have been collected and analyzed."

- By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Ohio Division of Wildlife clarifies ambigous ODNR release on bringing back big game

An Ohio Department of Natural Resources press release omission could lead to confusion by Ohioans seeking to hunt big game in other states and then return with their trophies.

This uncertainty stems from a jumbled August 31st news release by the Natural Resources Department regarding new regulations intended to help curtail the spread of chronic wasting disease in Ohio’s white-tail deer herd.

While the rules focus in some measure on deer-kill reporting requirements in two Ohio counties where CWD was found in captive deer, the release also spends some time on what Ohio big-game hunters traveling out of state may do – and not do – in transporting their harvest back into the state.

No person is permitted to bring or transport high-risk carcass parts of CWD-susceptible species into Ohio from any state or Canadian province, regardless of the CWD status of the exporting jurisdiction. Additional information on carcass regulations can be found at”

However, the issue is that the release does not specify which “parts,” nor does the reference link offer much in the way of an easy detouring route to an explanation. Such an important omission could be – and has been – construed to mean that a hunter returning to Ohio cannot bring back venison or a trophy head of a deer, moose, elk, caribou, or pronghorn antelope taken in a state known to be a venue of the highly contagious CWD.

That annotation now falls to the Ohio Division of Wildlife. In detailing what a successful Ohio hunter who traveled out of state can bring back the agency says that effective this past August 31st, returning Ohio hunters “must bone out the meat before returning to the state with an elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, caribou, or moose.”

Also, only the following parts may be brought into Ohio, says the Wildlife Division:

Meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached;

Meat that is boned out, securely and completely wrapped either commercially or privately;

Cleaned hides with no heads attached;

Skull plates that have been cleaned of all meat and brain tissue;

Antlers with no meat or tissue attached;

Cleaned upper canine teeth;

Hides and capes without any part of the head or lymph nodes attached; or

Finished taxidermy mounts.
hese restrictions and requirements largely follow those of most every other state in what a hunter returning home have to follow.

John Windau – Wildlife Division spokesman – said his agency will be issuing additional information on this subject; a particularly vital one considering that the big-game hunting seasons elsewhere have all ready begun, particularly in the West.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Lake Erie water levels begin slow seasonal descent; still well above average

Lake Erie’s water level is showing its typical seasonal drop though it remains near the record highs seen 32 years ago.

The Ohio Division of Geological Survey’s monthly water inventory report for July – the latest month available – says Lake Erie’s water level “declined in July” and was a minuscule 0.23 feet lower than in June.

Even so, the lake’s water level is still 1.64 feet above the long-term average and 4.36 feet above the so-called “low water datum.” It is also only inches from tying the high water levels seen in 1986 and early 1987.

Lake Erie likewise is 0.04 feet higher than it was in July, 2017, the Geological Survey Division’s hydrologist Scott C. Kirk said in the latest water inventory report.

In favor of a continued seasonal decline is that the Survey notes how both the Lake Erie and Great Lakes watershed basins saw below average precipitation during July. Traditionally, Lake Erie’s water level peaks during June, July and August once Upper Great Lakes’ snow melt arrives, and falls during the winter. These water levels begin to climb again by April.

Not that Lake Erie anglers and boaters have begun noticing much difference in water level changes, however.

“It’s been high all year,” said John Windau of Upper Sandusky and a frequent Lake Erie perch and walleye angler. “But I really haven’t noticed much difference, but then I haven’t been out as much lately, either.”

Yet Lake Erie anglers like Windau can anticipate excessively high water levels “for the foreseeable future,” said the Geological Survey Division and quoting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Deviations from the anticipated weather patterns could result in the level of Lake Erie ranging from four inches to as much as 25 inches above the normal seasonal average,” says the Geological Survey Division’s report for July.

The monthly report also says that while precipitation was below normal for July throughout most of the state, the to-date precipitation totals for 2018 is above normal almost everywhere. This surplus – again, as of July – ranged from 1.26 in the Southeast Region to 9.63 inches in the Northwest Region. Ohio is broken down into 10 meteorological regions for the purpose of rainfall and other other scientific data collection purposes.

- By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

U.S. Coast Guard issues Marine Safety Alert on potential radio interference by LED lighting

I’d like to say this came from extensive research but that would make me appear more studious to this issue than I really am. Still, if you are a boater this potentially important stuff; that is, if you have LED lighting, a VHS marine radio and something called AIS.

In any event, here’s the release from the BoatUS Foundation, which obtained a Marine Safety Alert from the U.S. Coast Guard that first discovered the potential problem:

ALEXANDRIA, Va. With their low battery draw, cooler operation and sturdy construction, LED lights have been popular with recreational boaters. The lights may also be causing poor VHF radio and Automatic Identification System (AIS) reception, according to a Marine Safety Alert issued by the U.S. Coast Guard on August 15.

The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water is urging boat owners to follow the Coast Guard’s simple test procedures for LED interference and report any instances to the Coast Guard Navigation Center.

The alert, issued for informational purposes, outlines reports received from mariners concerning radio frequency interference caused by LED lamps that “were found to create potential safety hazards.”

In some cases, the Coast Guard says, the interference may cause problems if mariners need to call for help. The interference can affect VHF voice communications as well as Digital Selective Calling (DSC) messages, and it may also affect AIS because they also use VHF radio. In particular, masthead LED navigation lights on sailboats may cause problems due to their close proximity to antennas.

The Coast Guard advises that it is possible to test for the presence of LED interference by using the following procedures:
  1. Turn off LED light(s).
  2. Tune the VHF radio to a quiet channel (for example, channel 13).
  3. Adjust the VHF radio’s squelch control until the radio outputs audio noise.
  4. Re-adjust the VHF radio’s squelch control until the audio noise is quiet, only slightly above the noise threshold.
  5. Turn on the LED light(s).
If the radio now outputs audio noise, then the LED lights are causing interference and it is likely that both shipboard VHF marine radio and AIS reception are being degraded by LED lighting.

Potential solutions include contacting an electronics repair facility to address the problem, changing the LED bulb to incandescent bulb or fixture, or increasing the separation between the LED light and antenna.

The Coast Guard also requests those experiencing this problem to report their experiences to the Coast Guard Navigation Center by selecting “Maritime Telecommunications” on the subject drop-down list, then briefly describing the make and model of LED lighting and radios affected, the distance from lighting to any antennas and radios affected, and any other information that may help them understand the scope of the problem.

If you’d like to learn more about VHF DSC radio or AIS operation, BoatUS Foundation has online courses and a free DSC VHF tutorial at

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn