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Published: Sunday, 1/20/2008

Ohio raptor trio might get new role on protected list

Three of Ohio's premier species of raptors, or birds of prey - the bald eagle, the osprey, and the peregrine falcon - are doing so well that the Ohio Division of Wildlife is proposing to downsize their status from endangered to threatened under state law.

"Down-listing is a tribute to the dedication and hard work of biologists and volunteers that assisted in the restoration of these raptors," said Dave Graham, state wildlife chief after tendering the proposed status changes to the Ohio Wildlife Council.

All three species continue to be fully protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 with the eagle, the national symbol, afforded additional cover of the federal Bald Eagle Protection Act.

Thus killing these or any other endangered or threatened species can result in significant criminal charges and fines.

Eagles have risen like the mythical phoenix from the ashes, thanks to vigorous, cooperative restoration efforts and controls of persistent toxic pollutants since 1979.

At the time only four pairs were known in Ohio, all along western Lake Erie. In 2007, 164 breeding pairs were identified in 45 counties, with 194 eaglets fledged from 116 nests.

Peregrine falcons were unknown in Ohio, a few sketchy historical records and migratory notations aside, until 1988. That was when a pair established the first known nest in the state in the former Commodore Perry Motor Inn in downtown Toledo.

The pair had gravitated to Toledo after being released elsewhere around the Great Lakes.

The Toledo nest came in an era when falcons were being bred extensively in captivity in other regions and released to "urban canyons" - complexes of skyscrapers and other tall business and industrial buildings that in effect mimic the natural cliffs that this species prefers for nesting and roosting.

Since then falcon numbers have been expanded, mostly through artificial introductions, in urban areas across the state.

In 2007, 23 nesting territories were noted, including three in Toledo - the original Commodore site downtown, the University of Toledo clock tower, and the Bay Shore Power Plant.

All produced young.

Statewide in 2007, 22 falcon nests produced eggs and 19 of the nests hatched out.

A total of 57 falcon chicks were hatched and 56 of them fledged, or flew from the nest on their own wings

That production is second only to the 60 chicks that fledged from 20 nests in 2006.

Osprey, once known as fish hawks for their uncanny ability to pull fish from the water, were reintroduced into Ohio after fading away in the early 20th century because of pollution-induced reproductive failures.

A long-term restoration program was set in motion in 1996, with artificial introductions at suitable sites - near large bodies of water but not near eagle territories.

Eagles will not tolerate ospreys and will kill them, so wherever eagles are thick, ospreys will be scarce.

Thus ospreys tend to shy away from northwest Ohio, where only two nests are known - in Williams County near Pioneer, and at Resthaven State Wildlife Area in Erie County.

Statewide there are at least 50 nest territories now, with an estimated production in 2007 of at least 78 young.

That compares with 46 nests and 75 young in 2006. A complete survey of all nests could not be done last year. Of the total osprey nests, 34 lie in northeast Ohio, well away from the western Lake Erie shore zone, which remains the state's eagle mecca.

The foregoing success stories with these high-profile species call attention to the state endangered species list, which was established in 1974.

At the time 71 species were considered to be on the road to disappearing.

The list is reviewed every five years, with state wildlife authorities seeking comments about list status from more than 100 research biologists, noted professional and amateur wildlife experts, and academics.

The current Ohio endangered species list includes six categories of classification encompassing 352 species. The categories include the following, in descending order: Endangered, 128 species; threatened, 47; species of concern, 93; special interest, 41, extirpated, 34; extinct, 9. Additional details on the list are available online at www.wildohio.com.

Proposed revisions to the list under consideration, beside delisting the three raptor species, include adding five animals to the species of concern list. These include smooth earth, green earth, and queen snakes; ground skink, and Blanchard's cricket frog.

The public will have the opportunity to review and comment on the listing proposals at open houses set for March 2 in the five district wildlife offices. Northwest Ohio is Wildlife District 2, with headquarters at 952 Lima Ave., Findlay. The district phone is 419-424-5000.

Directions to all five offices can be found online at the Web site above or by calling 1-800-WILDLIFE. A statewide hearing on the listings is set for March 6 at Wildlife District 1, 1500 Dublin Rd., Columbus. The Wildlife Council will consider the proposed changes and any public input at its meeting April 2.

The open houses, statewide hearing, and council meeting also will have under consideration various hunting and trapping rule changes that already have been announced.



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