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Blanding's Turtle

Ten Year Cooperative Project Contributes to Protection of Blanding's turtle. As of October 2010, the State of Ohio elevated Blanding's turtle from a "Species of Concern" to "threatened" species status indicating that existing populations are in danger of disappearing. Historically, Blanding's turtles were found in nearly all counties bordering Lake Erie, especially in the area of the Great Black Swamp near Toledo and Sandusky. As swamps and marshes were drained for agriculture and urban development, habitat vanished. Habitat loss and fragmentation, nest predation, and illegal collection for the pet trade industry continue to threaten Blanding's turtles in Ohio. Adults and children collect these brightly colored, docile turtles as pets, unknowingly contributing to their demise.

This elevated "threatened" status was aided by efforts of staff at Cleveland Metroparks. Ongoing attention to this small turtle with a distinctive yellow throat and seemingly permanent smile has helped focus awareness to its dwindling numbers and disappearing habitat.


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Emerald Ash Borer UPDATE!

On October 20, 2008, Cleveland Metroparks Forestry Division staff encountered the first confirmed Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) infestation in the Park District along Big Creek Parkway south of Bagley Road. Follow-up inspections by Natural Resources Division staff determined that the infestation might span an area from Baldwin Lake northeast towards the Kiwanis Drive intersection along Big Creek parkway. In April 2008, a notable population of EAB was confirmed adjacent to Park District property in the vicinity of Brecksville and Broadview Heights near Seneca Golf Course and the Ohio Turnpike Plaza.

The USDA Forest Service has been collecting seed from all species of ash for long-term storage and future research. Cleveland Metroparks, the Holden Arboretum, Lorain County Metroparks, Lake Metroparks, and Geauga Park District are participating in the project by helping collect seed from ash trees in the region. Background information on the Forest Service's ash seed collection program can be found here.

Ohio Department of Agriculture Expands Emerald Ash Borer Quarantine - 1/14/10

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Emerald Ash Borer Background

The Emerald Ash Borer is a small but destructive exotic beetle from Asia. It was first discovered in July 2002 feeding on ash trees in southeastern Michigan, probably arriving in wooden packing material at a harbor near Detroit. Evidence suggests that the Emerald Ash Borer has been established in Michigan for at least ten years. More than 3,000 square miles in southeastern Michigan are infested and more than 6 million ash trees are dead or dying from this pest.

Metallic green in color, EAB adults measure 1/2 inch in length and 1/8 wide. The average adult beetle can easily fit on a penny. Adult beetles lay eggs in the bark of any ash species (White, Green, Black, Blue), and after hatching, larvae feed in the cambium between the bark and wood. Larval feeding results in galleries that eventually girdle and kill branches and entire trees.

Emerald Ash Borer was identified in Ohio in February 2003. Since then, it has moved progressively across the state, and on October 3, 2006 the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) confirmed the presence of emerald ash borer (EAB) in Cuyahoga County. Subsequently, ODA to placed the county under EAB quarantine prohibiting the movement of harvested ash wood products, including firewood, from quarantined counties into non-quarantined counties. The Ohio Department of Agriculture EAB web page has up to date information and distribution maps concerning EAB in Ohio. For a national perspective on EAB, click here for information and links to many other web sites concerning this destructive pest. The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services have additional information about EAB and the quarantine.

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Firewood Alert

The key factor contributing to the spread of EAB is the movement of infested firewood. Cleveland Metroparks will continue to leave non-ash, wood rounds, a by-product of routine tree removal, for the general public to take and use for firewood. Other than what is provided by Cleveland Metroparks for public pick-up, firewood MAY NOT BE TRANSPORTED through Cleveland Metroparks at any time.

Do not move firewood into or through Cleveland Metroparks at any time. Enforced by Cleveland Metroparks Rangers under Park regulation 541.01

Firewood may NOT be brought into Cleveland Metroparks under Any circumstances.

Firewood, tree trimmings, and other debris may NOT be dumped in Cleveland Metroparks.

Split firewood, provided by Cleveland Metroparks at reserved facilities, nature centers and golf clubhouses may not be moved to other locations.

Don't move firewood! People unknowingly contribute to the spread of EAB when they move firewood. EAB larvae survive hidden under the bark of firewood. Play it safe: don't move any firewood and you won't move any beetles. Visually inspect your trees. Early detection is a key factor. If trees on your property display any sign or symptom of EAB infestation, contact your State agriculture agency (Ohio Department of Agriculture EAB web page).

Cleveland Metroparks Internal Policies regarding EAB (effective since October 2006)

Internal policies provide guidelines for park managers to slow the spread of emerald ash borer and remove infested ash trees from public facility and recreation sites while continuing Cleveland Metroparks mission of natural resource conservation.

Park District staff will inspect ash trees for signs of emerald ash borer during routine tree maintenance including pruning, dead-wooding and removal (including storm damage). Any signs of emerald ash borer will be immediately reported to the Natural Resource Division and further work on the infested tree/trees will cease immediately until the scope of the infestation is investigated.

Ash trees either pruned or felled (including storm damaged trees) in reservations, golf courses or at the Zoo will be hauled to a pre-designated holding area in the reservation where the tree was located. Tree pieces will be marked with fluorescent orange paint along the entire length of the trunk and on each end piece of wood. Ash wood will NOT be transported from one reservation to another within Cleveland Metroparks. Ash wood marked with fluorescent orange will not be mixed with non-ash firewood and logs.

Park District staff will process accumulated ash wood into wood chips less than 1" by 1" and composted as per EAB management protocol. Until the yarded ash wood is processed, it is NOT to be used for firewood, taken out of the Cleveland Metroparks by any employee or non-employee, nor used for any reason.

If ash trees or tree pieces CAN NOT be stored in a holding yard, they will be cut into pieces longer than 6 feet and scattered in the forest adjacent to where the tree was located for a minimum of 2 full (fall through summer) seasons before being pieced for firewood if necessary either for aesthetics and or debris control. Workers will chip as much of the non-trunk portion of the ash debris as possible.

Signs currently posted at picnic facilities and kiosks throughout Cleveland Metroparks have updated language to reflect new policies regarding transport of firewood through or into Cleveland Metroparks boundaries with the reasons outlined.

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Deer Management

What does "we have a deer problem" mean?

The "deer problem" is an indication that the local biological system is out of balance. In nature, all biological communities, or ecosystems, are in a state of flux. At the same time, balances evolve among all the components of the system, including the non-living (soil, water, etc.) and the living components (plants, animals). A "deer problem" exists when the number of deer exceeds the ability of the environment to support the deer. The "deer problem" also refers to human interaction with deer, such as landscape damage, farm damage, automobile/deer accidents, and concerns for disease transmission. An environmental balance is of primary concern to Cleveland Metroparks, but as a member of the larger community of Northeast Ohio, other issues cannot be ignored.

What caused the "deer problem" to occur?

Deer were over-hunted in Ohio and disappeared from the landscape by 1900. The rapid growth in the deer herd size in Northeast Ohio is directly related to several factors. Natural predators of deer are absent from today's environment. Mountain lions, wolves, black bear, and indigenous people were the primary factors affecting deer population in pre-settlement times. Human influences have caused changes to the land over the past 150 years. Vegetation cover has been transformed from primarily mature forests to present-day urban and quasi-rural landscapes with well-developed residential communities. Deer have successfully found food in these new environments which spurred high reproductive success and survivorship. With no natural predators to control population growth, continuing urban expansion, local ordinances prohibiting hunting, absence of disease and adaptive food habits, deer populations have increased markedly. Deer density, (commonly referenced as number of deer per square-mile) has intensified accordingly.

Deer social groups (matriarchal does & yearling social groups / male "bachelor" groups outside the mating season) form home ranges that vary according to local deer density, landscape, travel corridors and foraging habits. These home ranges presently shift very little. Food availability and food preferences within these static home ranges have been sustained by the adaptive nature of white-tailed deer. As a result, deer feeding or "browsing" habits in Cleveland Metroparks have shifted from open edges and understory plant sources to interior forest vegetation consisting of native forest floor plant and understory tree species.

What are the principal impacts of the "deer problem" to Cleveland Metroparks?

Cleveland Metroparks is charged with conservation of natural resources as its fundamental mission. The impacts of large deer populations became evident in portions of the reservations by the late 1980's. The most noticeable impacts are to the plant life at ground and mid-understory levels (what the deer can reach while foraging) and to the other wildlife species that depend upon these disappearing resources.

"Browse lines" develop in areas with too many deer. Spring plants, especially the typically abundant forest wildflowers, are especially hard hit as they are the first new growth after the long winter. As these plants are repeatedly browsed, they are unable to reproduce and often die out because their nutrient-energy reserve is depleted without the ability to go through a normal seasonal growth cycle. Seedling trees are heavily browsed by deer, often to the point where forest regeneration stops. Plants that are not preferred by deer expand, including grass, some sedge, and many unwanted exotic (non-native) species.

The cumulative effect on natural areas, especially forested areas, is so great it devastates the ecosystem. The forest communities will take many years to recover. Some areas have been impacted by deer browsing to such a severe degree that reproduction of new forest trees has essentially stopped. In these areas, native plants, like annual wildflowers, may need to be re-introduced. Neo-tropical migrating and year-round songbirds are dependent upon groundcover and the shrub/tree understory that provide nesting and foraging cover. These species are challenged to find nesting opportunities in Cleveland Metroparks forest areas that lack understory and groundcover habitat decimated by deer browsing. It is the goal of the Cleveland Metroparks to ensure successful native forest regeneration and native plant species growth by reducing deer population/density to the level where forest health indicates successful balance has been achieved.

Why doesn't nature "take its course" and reduce the deer population through natural means?

The effects of a lack of natural predators to maintain population growth, urban expansion, local ordinances prohibiting hunting, absence of disease, the adaptive food habits of deer and backyard deer feeding stations, all combine to encourage very high populations of deer. High populations may be able to persist for a long time, absent a disease epidemic like chronic wasting disease. In short, letting nature "take its course" and allowing deer populations to increase without any control have significantly impacted plant and other animal species.

How long has Cleveland Metroparks been studying the problem and what type of field research is done?

Cleveland Metroparks Natural Resources staff have been studying and monitoring the deer population in the Park District since the early 1980s. Field surveys demonstrated a rapid decline in interior forest plant communities resulting from increased deer densities at the local landscape level by the late 1980's. After exploring practical options for reducing deer populations, culling was chosen. Culling areas within the Cleveland Metroparks were identified from deer density level and browse impact survey data. Culling began in 1998. Field surveys and research consist of, but are not limited to:

  • Extensive forest vegetation surveys starting in 2003 that has collected data from over a 1,000 vegetation plots to date. This data is used to determine areas that have been heavily browsed and to track changes in vegetation with deer density reduction through deer management.
  • Static "photo" plots (where photographs are taken at the same position and time of year to track changes in vegetation) originated in key forest areas in 1997 and are updated annually.
  • Deer exclosures have been erected to determine forest vegetation recovery rates.

How does Cleveland Metroparks determine the number of deer in each reservation?

Cleveland Metroparks uses a number of annual field surveys to monitor deer populations. One technique is using infrared videography from a fixed-winged airplane to provide estimates of deer numbers and determine locations of deer social groups. Other field surveys to monitor deer populations include spotlight counts, deer pellet (scat) counts, mapping home ranges of deer social groups, tracking deer, and counting deer that use bait stations. Research indicates that the density level in a balanced system would be between 10 and 20 deer per square mile. However, the key issue should not be looked at as "how many deer is the right number?" but, rather, monitoring the environment's response to the deer population and reducing the number until the environment indicates the "right" number of deer.

How will the environment tell us when we have the "right" number of deer?

By using research which:

  • Compares the trends of plants and animal populations from before the deer population became too high, through the current population levels and again when deer numbers are brought lower.
  • Compares the populations, abundance and species richness of plant and animal species in a single year where deer impacted areas are compared to areas where deer are either excluded or controlled at more normal levels.

Is birth control available for deer populations?

Cleveland Metroparks has seriously investigated alternatives to the current deer management program. From 2001 to 2006 nearly $500,000 was spent to investigate the efficacy of immunocontraception as an alternative means of controlling deer populations. Cleveland Metroparks concluded, as have other recent studies, that immunocontraception did result in decreased pregnancies. However, the free-ranging nature of the deer herd in the region where both immigration and emigration take place make it difficult to deliver the contraceptive to a large number of deer. Studies are being followed in other states that are testing immunocontraceptive vaccines based on porcine zona pellucida (PZP) and gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) (SpayVac™ and GonaCon™) and more effective delivery methods. Currently, immunocontraceptives (or other contraception agents) may only be used legally for research and not management purposes on wild deer populations in Ohio. This use must be authorized by federal regulatory agencies and the Ohio Division of Wildlife. Currently, the Ohio Division of Wildlife is not allowing use of immunocontraceptives for deer population management.

Is it true that if you reduce the deer herd they will have triplets, causing a "rebound effect?"

This does not occur with deer management programs. Deer reproduction, monitored by Cleveland Metroparks since 1998, has averaged approximately 1.7 fawns per yearling and older does throughout the management period. Twins are the norm with 68% of does bearing twins, 23% having single births, and approximately 4.5% bearing triplets. 4.5% of yearlings or older have not produced fawns.

How are deer culled in Cleveland Metroparks?

Under permits granted by the Ohio Division of Wildlife, sharp-shooting is used to reduce deer populations. Experienced and trained teams of Cleveland Metroparks employees implement the annual program. All personnel directly involved are law enforcement employees (Rangers) who have been tested for firearm proficiency. Specific reservations are closed to the public during deer management activities, and Rangers are stationed at the entrances of each reservation at the time management activities are being conducted to insure the safety of park visitors. The majority of the effort is concentrated during the time period when deer are most active (near dawn and dusk.)

All shots are taken from elevated platforms, either truck-mounted or tree stands to ensure safety. Animals are taken in areas of known concentrations and/or in areas that have been baited previously. Most culling areas are open grass areas, road berms, managed meadows and early successional old fields to allow for open shots. This insures the humane and safe culling of deer.

Additional Cleveland Metroparks staff assists with field dressing, transporting meat to the processor and servicing equipment. All animals are field dressed the same night and delivered to the processor the next day. Based on prearranged schedules, processed meat is donated to hunger centers including the Cleveland Food Bank. Since the inception of the management program more than 251,000 pounds of deer meat have been donated to feed the hungry. 

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VHS (Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia) Fish Alert

Viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) virus is a serious fish pathogen of much concern in the Great Lakes region including Lake Erie. At first, VHS was thought to affect only trout species, but a new strain of the virus is now affecting numerous game and non-game species in the region. Some infected fish will exhibit no external signs while others will exhibit bulging eyes, bloated abdomens, inactive or overactive behavior, lesions, and hemorrhaging in the eyes, skin, gills, and base of the fins. VHS has no implications for human health.

The disease is easily transmitted between fish, results in a high fish mortality rate, and has potentially severe economic and recreation impacts. VHS has not been detected in the inland waters of Cleveland Metroparks (although Huntington Reservation is on Lake Erie) and we all need to do our part to keep it that way. DO NOT transport fish, aquatic plants or animals, or water from one body of water to another including ponds, rivers, aquariums, lakes and streams. Please thoroughly clean any boating and fishing equipment before transporting between waterways. A recent report on VHS can be found at the Ohio Sea Grant College Program web page.

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Raccoon Strain Rabies

Rabies is a viral disease most often transmitted through the bite of a rabies-infected animal. It is preventable through pre-exposure and/or post-exposure vaccines. Nationwide, wild animals are responsible for over 90% of all rabies cases with almost 38% attributed to raccoons followed by bats (24%) and skunks (21%). The raccoon strain of rabies spread quickly throughout the eastern US presumably after raccoons had been transported from Georgia to Virginia in the mid-1970s (click here for information on raccoon rabies spread).

A rabies-positive raccoon found in Chardon, OH in April 2004 triggered a sampling of road-killed raccoons. This led to other discoveries in Lake, Geauga and Cuyahoga Counties the same year. USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services designated the Cuyahoga River as the westernmost line of raccoon-strain rabies spread, and multi-agency efforts have concentrated on stopping the spread of raccoon strain rabies west of this line. APHIS has since been conducting intensive raccoon-rabies surveys throughout Cleveland Metroparks reservations.

The Ohio Department of Health, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health and Cleveland Metroparks distribute oral rabies vaccine packets (ORV) through a combination of aerial and ground ORV drops. Click here for information concerning the most recent ORV distribution in Cleveland Metroparks.

In 2007, USDA-APHIS based the Ohio operation out of the North Chagrin Reservation Operations Management Center. Raccoon sampling work extended from Lake County southward through Portage County. Early results showed a reduction of rabies attributed to the ORV distribution. If dogs and or cats ingest an ORV, they are in effect, receiving a free rabies booster with no ill effects. If a child ingests or handles an ORV, they will not be harmed, however it is suggested that their doctor is notified and the child's hands are washed. An information phone/contact number is printed on the side of the ORV, but many times, it is faded or weathered off.

Report any abnormal raccoon behavior to the nearest nature center or ranger station. Abnormal behavior might include, uncoordinated movements, matted fur, excessive salivation, or other sick appearance.

Check the Cuyahoga County Board of Health website for information on rabies prevention and to report an animal bite. For additional information on Ohio rabies and links to national efforts for rabies prevention click here.

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Black Bears in Cleveland Metroparks

How Long Have Black Bears Been in Ohio?

Black bears inhabited Ohio prior to settlement of the region, but by the 1850's black bears were considered extirpated (removed completely) from Ohio. Unregulated hunting and deforestation as farms, towns, and industry were established in Ohio in the 1800's contributed to the reduction in black bear numbers. Remaining bears were either shot or trapped to protect livestock and crops. Occasional black bear sightings prompted the development of a formal black bear reporting procedure in 1993 (1-800-WILDLIFE). Reports suggest that Ohio supports a small breeding population of black bears. (Ohio DNR black bear web page).

How Long Have Black Bears been in Cuyahoga County

Since 1995 there have been 15 black bear sightings in Cuyahoga County. It is important to remember that each sighting does not indicate a different bear. For example, there have been 5 reported sightings in 2005, all reports of the same bear by different people.

Most of the sightings reported since 1995 have come from the Chagrin River Valley. Most of these bears are probably young males (18 months to 3 years). Young male bears move to areas with lower bear populations (such as Ohio) to avoid confrontation with older males that are very territorial during the summer months when mating occurs. Adult male bears will kill young male bears within their territory. Non-breeding males often do not have their own territory so they wander, sometimes covering a hundred miles or more. Once young black bears arrive in highly developed areas such as northeastern Ohio, they become uncomfortable among the large human population and return eastward from where they came. Black bears that have been spotted in Cuyahoga County probably return to over winter in the dense forests of western Pennsylvania.

What is a Black Bear?

The black bear, Ursus americanus, is the most common species of bear in North America. Bears are crepuscular animals. This means they are most active early in the morning and late in the evening. Bears in areas of high human population will often adjust their schedule and become active at night when few people are around. They are omnivores; they eat a variety of foods from fruits and grasses to meat.

How Do I know if I See a Black Bear?

Black bears have a range of color phases that include black, chocolate brown, cinnamon brown and blue-black. Adult black bears can weigh between 150 and 700 pounds, but the average weight for a male is 300 pounds and 175 pounds for a female. Males measure between five and six feet tall when standing upright, while females are smaller at four to five feet tall standing upright. Most adult black bears are between two and a half and three feet tall at the shoulders when on all fours. Although black bears grow to be quite large, they weigh only 8 ounces at birth!

Where Do Black Bears Live?

Black bears have a large home range and travel often. Studies indicate the home ranges of males to be 100 to 120 square miles. Females have smaller home ranges at 20 to 50 square miles. Black bears can be found from coast to coast throughout North America in a wide variety of more heavily wooded habitats from swamps and wetlands to dry hardwood and coniferous forests. Black bears hibernate in their over-wintering dens between November and March.

What is the Life Cycle of Black Bears?

Black bears breed mid-June to mid-July and sows give birth sometime during January or February. First litters usually have only one cub while later litters produce two or three cubs. Black bears generally produce one litter every other year. Care is provided entirely by the mother. Cubs stay with their mother until they are about 1.5 to 2 years old. Black bears can live to 25 years or more in the wild.

Am I or My Children in Danger From a Black Bear Attack?

An estimated 55 black bears inhabited Ohio in 2001, making the chances of seeing one extremely slim. If you do encounter a bear, slowly back away and allow it to continue on its way. Bears try to avoid interaction with people. However, bears will take advantage of easy food sources. Remember, a fed bear is a dead bear. Bears that associate food with people become troublesome, and it often costs the bear its life.

What Can I Do To Keep Black Bears From Becoming a Nuisance?

Although black bears try to avoid human interaction they occasionally become a nuisance around human populated areas. Try to manage your household waste in a place where bears cannot get to it and look for food. You should never feed a bear. Bears may lose their fear of humans and become a nuisance or even aggressive towards people in situations where people are feeding them. When this happens the bear may have to be relocated or even destroyed.

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West Nile Virus

Facts you should know about West Nile

The West Nile Virus (WNV) is a viral disease previously seen only in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. In 1999, an unexpected outbreak of WNV occurred in New York City. In 2000, the virus spread east and south, causing 21 human cases of WNV encephalitis in the United States including two deaths. The virus can cause encephalitis or meningitis, which inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. Infected mosquitos spread the WNV.

The Ohio Department of Health reports that in Ohio, birds and mosquitoes first tested positive for WNV in 2001, and the first human case occurred in 2002. In 2002, an epidemic of WNV occurred in Cuyahoga County with 221 confirmed cases. In 2007, only 23 cases were reported statewide with only 15 reported in 2008.

The Center for Disease Control reports that even in areas where mosquitoes have been tested and are found to carry the virus, very few mosquitoes - less than 1% - are infected. If a mosquito is infected, less than 1% of the people who are bitten and become infected will get severely ill. The chances of becoming severely ill from any mosquito bite are extremely small.

Cleveland Metroparks is adopting a proactive policy regarding the WNV. The Park District is actively cooperating with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health (CCBH) and the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) which are leading the efforts in managing this issue. Cleveland Metroparks will participate with the CCBH and the ODH to monitor mosquitoes.

Healthy wetlands, like those found in Cleveland Metroparks do not provide ideal breeding sites for the type of mosquito that carries the West Nile Virus - Culex pipiens. Natural populations of predators (fish & amphibians) and parasites control larval mosquito populations. Flowing or standing water with "wave or ripple action" serves as a poor breeding site for Culex mosquitoes.

Sites that hold standing water like tire ruts and receptacles such as retention basins, discarded tires, roof gutters, bird baths, and outdoor pots, attract and serve as prime breeding areas for Culex pipiens because those catchments hold few natural predators. Cleveland Metroparks will make every effort to minimize these breeding sites by recycling trash promptly and reducing or eliminating any management activities that produce tire ruts or depressions.

Additional information on West Nile Virus activity, disease prevention, symptoms, and diagnosis can be found at the Ohio Department of Health website and at the Centers for Disease control website.

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