Two news items are signs of the times

Jane Beathard Staff Writer

December 27, 2013

Two news items in recent weeks indicate a significant change in the way Americans look at their native wildlife and illustrate the success of wildlife restoration programs throughout the country.

In early December, the Obama Administration relaxed regulations around the growing number of wind turbines. The giant, grinding blades are now allowed to kill more eagles as they generate the “clean” electricity that times demand.

The Dec. 9 issue of Time delves into burgeoning wildlife populations and the human conflicts that result. The article, entitled “Time to Cull The Herd,” advocates more hunting and trapping to curb disease, auto accidents and similar adversities that come with free-roaming deer, bear, cougar and other critters.

Times have really changed. And that’s a good thing!

Just 30 years ago, only four breeding pairs of bald eagles nested in Ohio — all of them along Lake Erie.

The most recent winter eagle survey turned up 190 nests along a dozen major waterways between the Ohio River and Lake Erie.

Thanks to federal laws and changes in pesticide formulas, our national symbol is no longer endangered or threatened in Ohio or anywhere else in the country. Eagles are so plentiful, they are now apparently expendable — at least when it comes to renewable energy.

Growing up in the 1950s, the only white-tailed deer I saw were in movies, books or the zoo.

Whitetails are now a common sight — and hazard — along every roadway in the state. They munch urban shrubs and grow fat in rural cornfields.

My southern Ohio cousins hunted wild turkey when few roosted in the woods. Twenty-five years ago, hunters were lucky to spot one bird in a season, let alone take one home for dinner.

Last spring, hunters killed 18,391 turkeys during Ohio’s four-week season. Wild turkeys are now the second most popular game animal in the state, after white-tailed deer.

Bobcats are flourishing in Vinton and Noble counties. Black bears are again prowling eastern Ohio forests from Conneaut to Portsmouth. Now and again, southern Ohio farmers report the rooting of wild boar.

Bears, coyotes, bobcats and boars returned to the Buckeye State on their own. Deer, turkey and a few lesser species had help from scientific restoration and management projects.

Forest wildlife found more places to live and reproduce as Ohio’s wooded acres grew from 2.6 million in 1900 to 8.5 million today.

As America became urbanized, public support began to favor wildlife preservation over decimation. The Time article dates public infatuation with all things wild to the release of Walt Disney’s Bambi in 1942.

That’s way too simplistic.

America’s conservation movement long pre-dated Disney’s sappy cartoon. It began in the mid 1800s and gathered steam in the Progressive Era of the early 1900s. New Deal legislation of the 1930s provided every state with funding for fish and wildlife reintroduction projects.

That money continues to flow today and is the unseen force behind the return of many wild creatures to our natural landscape.