Ohio’s wildlife belongs to all of us

Small Buck
(Photo courtesy of Bob “Greenie” Grewell)

One of the first things I learned at the Ohio DNR when I went to work there in 2000 was that all Ohio wildlife belonged to all the people of Ohio.

My supervisor and co-worker, Andy Ware, stressed that to me. It was something I had never thought about.

My father was a very ethical hunter and trapper who routinely stalked our little creek farm for rabbits, pheasants, muskrats, beaver, and (once in a while) an elusive mink. His trapping proceeds were our “Christmas money” that provided gifts and other holiday extras.

He seldom hunted or trapped outside our property and I always just assumed those critters were “ours” to take.

Of course, that wasn’t true.

A recent article in Fish & Game magazine explained it all to me in a more academic fashion.

Ohio operates on the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. That means, the state’s wildlife is owned by everyone in the state. Wild whitetails, foxes, bobcats, and coyotes are public property, so to speak.

That means folks with deer plots and salt licks don’t own the deer they feed, according to the magazine. Those deer may be harvested by anyone who finds them wandering on public lands or on property where they have permission to hunt.

A wild, white-tailed deer with a big rack is, in short, “fair game” for anyone with a tag and permission to hunt. It is free to move where it wants and cannot be trapped or corralled under Ohio law.

“Any attempt to stop or alter the pattern of (wildlife moving across the landscape) is considered a wildlife crime,” the article said.

That’s how the state is able to make laws and prosecute poachers, over-baggers, and other violators.

Deer food plots are growing in popularity. They are actually supposed to contribute to animal nutrition, not lure deer in for harvest purposes. Although many who have those plots would probably avoid that philosophy!

Food plots serve a variety of (possibly) unintended purposes. They benefit pollinating insects, migrating birds, and critters like raccoons and possums. They are an environmentally sound way to support all of Ohio’s wildlife.

So, don’t think that deer foraging on your food plot is yours. It is “ours.”

Categories: Ohio – Jane Beathard

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