Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Ohio fish and wildlife resources and programs being soaked by the heavy rains

Though Ohio’s nearly 78,000 farms are bearing the brunt of the on-going deluge, the state’s wildlife – and even fishes – are also being soused by the endless bouts of rain.

Everything from turkey poult production to pheasant recruitment to the timing and placement of stocked channel catfish is being dampened by the rains.

Even the submissions of Fish Ohio applications appears to have experienced at least some drenching by the rains.

More directly, though, is the rains’ influences on crop planting. How serious is this production threat can be seen weekly in figures tabulated by the federal government’s Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. These figures are passed along to the Oho Department of Agriculture.

Ohio has approximately 78,000 farms totaling some 14 million acres. Corn, by far, comprises the largest cash crop, its planting accounting for about 6.7 million acres of this total.

And data compiled by the Statistics Service acknowledges that as of June 17 – the last date for which figures were available at writing time – 68 percent of the state’s corn crop was planted compared to 100 percent for both last year and the five-yer average.

The statistics were even more dismal for soybeans: 46 percent planted as of June 17 compared to 94 percent last year as well as for the five-year average.
Whether these figures will rebound is uncertain, however.

This situation is still in flux, and that cannot be determined at this time,” said Ohio Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Shelby Croft.

While hope for a rebound cannot entirely be abandoned, the situation is grim enough that Governor Mike DeWine on June 14 petitioned U.S. Agriculture Department Secretary Sonny Perdue for an agricultural disaster designation for Ohio.

Still, the substantial and sustained rains that Ohio’s been encountering may very well have all ready negatively impact ground-nesting birds. Among the vulnerable species are quail, ring-necked pheasants and wild turkeys, assesses Mark Wiley, the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s forest game biologist.

Unfortunately, much of our better pheasant habitat is on CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) land, and that is just the sort of land that is set aside because it’s the most marginal for farming and consequently is also the most prone to reoccurring flooding,” Wiley says.

Too, Wiley says when forest edge cover is missing it’s common for some ground-nesting bird species to move their chicks into crop fields. Here, the family can take cover underneath a “canopy of maturing soybean leaves” and other growing grains, Wiley says.

Flood those field - or else not plant those fields at all - and the proper protecting cropland vegetation never materializes, Wiley says.

As for wild turkey poults, while these young birds are able to join their mothers in jumping into trees to roost at night and consequently cam avoid any flooding, the young are no less vulnerable to hypothermia and pneumonia as are quail and pheasant chicks, Wiley says.

In looking at any re-nesting, should a nest and its clutch of turkey, pheasant or quail eggs be flooded out a hen might pull off another go at the task The rub, says Wiley, is that the deeper the incident happens into the nesting season the less likely a hen will start over, Wiley says.

The problem’s been, we just haven’t dried out long enough,” Wiley says. “Everything in moderation, including rainfall and temperatures.”

Make no mistake, either, says Wildlife Division aquatic scientists, even the agency’s fish management program has experienced challenges brought about by the seemingly incessant stretches of rumbling thunderstorms, rain showers and cold fronts.

Among those tests of patience involves the Wildlife Division’s St. Marys Fish Hatchery, located in the low-lying region of Auglaize County. Here, the agency saw itself stoking the pumps in order to remove the excessive rain water from the fish-rearing ponds, says Kevin Kayle, administrator for the Wildlife Division’s fish hatchery section.

That issue impacted our channel catfish production at St. Marys but we’ve been able to readjust our stocking schedule, and we’ve also obtained catfish from our other hatcheries,” Kaye said.

Kayle did say the stocking of catchable trout, steelhead, walleye, yellow perch and saugeyes has gone off within a drop of complaint to muddy the scheduling of waters.

However, sometimes the agency needed adopted a strategy of re-positioning the location of where such stocking occurs. This approach is being accomplished because inland reservoirs are designed to expel excess water over spillways or down other draining systems.

And that release of water can include the loss of both recently stocked fish as well as existing populations of a reservoir’s resident fish, Kayle says.

In those case we’ve gone to stocking the middle and upper sections of reservoirs and lakes,” Kayle says.

In other respects the inundation has not proven itself to be a negative issue. This year’s to-date Fish Ohio program’s application entries are running close to what they were one year ago, says the administrator of that program, Vicki Farus.

Farus said as of June 20, the Wildlife Division had recorded 4,033 Fish Ohio applications. That is a drop of only 103 applications from one year ago, Farus said.

Sales of fishing licenses thus far also have seen little impact. Combining the various resident license permits – even taking into account the newly created multi-year resident fishing licenses – to-date sales as of June 21 were down only 20,354 tags: 515,547 for to-date in 2018 and 495,193 to-date this year, says Andy Burt, the Wildlife Division official in charge of tracking fishing and hunting license sales.

Similarly the heavy rains may even have resulted in some positive non-intended consequences.

Wildlife Division deer biologist Clint McCoy says ample precipitation in the spring “undoubtedly has a positive impact on fawn survival in a couple of ways.”

First, sufficient rainfall will provide good hiding cover once the fawns are born, offering bad weather-protected bedding sites for the young deer, McCoy says.

And the other positive, of course, is that good ground cover can make it more difficult for a predator to find a fawn,” McCoy said.

McCoy says spring rain-enhanced lush vegetation actually “provides important nutritional resources for the doe.”

The better condition the mother is in, the better she can provide nourishment for her fawn, and she can stay closer to her offspring, too,” McCoy says.

Though while cool weather with rains can cause some fawns to fatally experience hypothermia; in wet summers, fewer human-caused direct mortality of deer is likely, McCoy says.

I’ve talked to a few folks who have yet to get a first cutting of hay, and these people may only get one cutting due to the wet weather. For fawns that can survive the elements, they’re less likely to be caught up in farm machinery this year,” McCoy says.

When considering adult deer, with crops being planted later in this sowing season and delayed crop maturation, Ohio’s hunters should see “more standing crops during the deer season” than is typically encountered.

As you know, those conditions do not bode well for deer hunters looking to fill a tag. Standing corn provides a frustratingly good place for deer to hide,” McCoy says. “On the other hand, the deer could have a significant food source available to rack up on fat stores that will prepare them for the winter.”

Thus, the recent rains have – and will continue to – proven to be both a blessing and a curse.

At least with the high water levels the steelhead won’t have any problems making up the streams,” added Mentor angler Bob Ashley.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

I'd hold off on boasting about the first-ever Inland Fish Ohio Day if I were Gov. DeWine

I certainly would not shout nor brag too much about a day of fishing like this, but then again, I’m not with the Ohio Divisoon of Wildlife where even the most minuscule of successess.
Still, it’s no wonder I didn't get this release from the Ohio Division of Wildlife but had to check out the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ web site.
The agency actually crows that the two largest fish of the day were a pair of 16-inch fish - one of them being a channel catfish?
Oh, well, at least the Wildlife Division waited until the last graph to mark this auspicious achievement. That is, just after the Governor's canned quote about Ohio having world-class fishing.
Hard to make this stuff up. Anyway, here is the official release:

WILMINGTON, OH – Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director Mary Mertz held the first-ever Inland Fish Ohio Day at Cowan Lake State Park in Wilmington on Saturday (June 8). The Governor fished on a boat with several of his grandchildren.

‘“We had a great day fishing at Cowan Lake,’ said Governor DeWine. ‘In Ohio, we have world-class opportunities for boating and fishing, not only on Lake Erie, but also on our inland lakes, like Cowan Lake. We want to highlight opportunities for families to fish and spend time together at our inland lakes this summer.’

“ ‘Ohio is such a wonderful place to live,”’said Director Mertz. ‘Our state offers families hundreds of lakes where they can spend a day relaxing, fishing, sailing, kayaking, or canoeing. Our inland lakes offer so much, and no matter where you are, there is a lake close to you!’

Attendees of the new Inland Fish Ohio Day enjoyed boating and fishing on the 700-acre Cowan Lake. Muskie, crappie, largemouth bass, catfish, and bluegill are plentiful at Cowan Lake.

The two largest fish of the day were 16 inches long. One was a 16 inch channel catfish and the other was a 16 inch largemouth bass. Anglers caught nearly 200 fish over the course of the morning.”

Monday, June 10, 2019

4.0 earhquake srrikes just one-half mile off Lake County underneath Lake Erie (UPDATED)

An earthquake struck at 10:31 a.m., June 10 only about one-half mile off the Lake County shoreline and at a depth of about three miles underneath Lake Erie, a figure geologists consider as being shallow.

The 4.2 magnitude event shook such nearby communities as Euclid, Wickliffe, Mentor and Eastlake though local police departments did not report any damage. Agencies did field numerous telephone inquiries, however.

A series of at least five 2.0 to 2.5 magnitude aftershocks were recorded as well, said Eric Heis, geologist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Geological Survery.

Seismic activity of 2.5 and above can generally be felt. This is a known epicenter of earthquakes, due to the geologic history of the area,” Heis said.

This location both beneath and near Lake Erie in the Lake County area is a fairly active fault zone. The last tremor in this region was a 2.0 magnitude event on March 3th in Lake County’s Concord Township. This event was preceded by a 2.1 magnitude incident on December 7th, 2018; also underneath Lake Erie and about four miles north of Fairport Harbor.

To date for 2019, Ohio has recorded six earthquakes. Another 10 were recorded in 2018, 12 events in 2017, and 11 in 2016.

Since 2010, Ohio has experienced nearly 100 earthquakes measuring at least 2.0 magnitude of which only one other event was recorded at 4.0 magnitude or more, reports the Ohio Division of Geological Survey Division.

Ohio is on the periphery of the New Madrid Seismic Zone. The origins of Ohio earthquakes, as with earthquakes throughout the eastern United States, are poorly understood. Those in Ohio appear to be associated with ancient zones of weakness in the Earth's crust that formed during rifting and continental collision events about a billion years ago, the Geological Survey says also.

Ohioans who felt this – or any other similar – event in the state are encouraged by Division of Geological Survey’s Ohio Seismic Survey at 855-782-5364.

- By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Ohio's oil and gas extraction is hitting pay dirt nationally

Giving OPEC a (sort of) run for its oil profits, Ohio’s horizontal petroleum product wells easily topped their respective 2018 first quarter numbers.

A key related metric for this production, also adds an official with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, is ensuring that the drilling activity follows state law and regulatory protocols as they relate to environmental considerations.
Figures released by the Department’s Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management indicate that during the first quarter of 2019, Ohio’s horizontal shale wells produced 5,073,536 barrels of oil and 609 billion cubic feet of natural gas.
By comparison, the figures for the first quarter of 2018 were 3,942,329 barrels of oil and 609 billion cubic feet of natural gas. Put another way, oil production rose nearly 29 percent and natural gas production jumped nearly 16 percent between the two quarters.
Also, the Natural Resources Department’s quarterly report lists Ohio as having 2,277 horizontal shale wells of which 2,228 reported oil and natural gas production during 2019’s first quarter.
However, all of the first quarter figures are still smaller than their respective forth quarter 2018 numbers. During the fourth quarter of 2018, Ohio’s horizontal shale wells produced 5,810,484 barrels of oil and 663 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

It must be noted too that wells typically do not run continuously in Ohio. The number of days wells operated during 2018’s forth quarter and 2019’s first quarter were identical: 86.

Yet while Ohio’s petroleum production is easily dwarfed by such states as Texas, North Dakota, California, Oklahoma, and Alaska, it still is enough to have the state ranked 12th in the nation, according to the statistical data collecting and distribution firm, Statista.

In fact, says Adam Schroeder, spokesman for the Oil And Gas Resources Management Division, Ohio is one of the largest producers of natural gas and oil production in the United States, with some data showing that the state has the fifth largest reserve of natural gas in the country.

Schroeder said also the Ohio Oil and Energy Education Program estimates that there are over 200,000 jobs in the state that are tied to the oil and gas industry. And it is estimated that by 2040 the Utica and Marcellus Shale region – of which Ohio is an important component - will provide nearly half of all the United States natural gas production, Schroeder said.

We have really seen a rise in job development in the industry over the past several years. From public sector to private industry jobs, the job growth has really been impressive,” Schroder said.

Data compiled by Cleveland State University indicates that in 2011, the petroleum industry employed around 14,000 Ohioans, a number that has risen to nearly 200,000 today.

Our staff, both in the field and those supporting them, take their statutorily defined responsibilities seriously and work every day on behalf of Ohioans to achieve a balance between protecting public health, safety, and the environment and ensuring the wise use of natural resources for the benefit of all,” Schroder said as well.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn