Proposed Hunting Regulation Changes

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An extended fall wild turkey hunting season for archery hunters with an addition of three new counties, an increase in squirrel hunting bag limits and the removal of the river otter from the state's endangered species list were the highlights of proposals presented by state wildlife officials to the Ohio Wildlife Council yesterday. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife, proposals also included hunting and trapping rules and season dates for 2002-2003, excluding deer hunting seasons which will be discussed at the council's February meeting.

Open house forums will be held in each of the five wildlife agency districts from noon until 3 p.m. on March 3. These forums provide the public opportunities to view and discuss proposed hunting and trapping regulations with Division of Wildlife personnel. Directions to the meetings can be obtained by calling 1-800-WILDLIFE.

A statewide hearing on the proposed rules will be held Thursday March 14 at 9 a.m. at the wildlife agency's District One office, located at 1500 Dublin Road in Columbus. After reviewing public input, the Wildlife Council will vote on the proposed rules and season dates during its April 10 meeting.

With more than 260,000 wild turkeys in Ohio, archery hunters will have an extended season following the fall wild turkey hunting season , proposed for October 12-27. If approved, archery hunters will be able to hunt through December 1. Ashland, Richland and Scioto counties will also be added to the 32 counties currently open for fall turkey hunting.

"Wild turkeys are abundant in Ohio and we want to provide as many opportunities for the state's hunters as possible," said Mike Budzik, chief of ODNR's Division of Wildlife. "Turkey hunters next fall will enjoy the best hunting opportunities since Ohio's modern-day turkey hunting season was opened in 1966."

Another proposed change would see river otters removed from the state list of endangered species, and cattle egrets added to the list. Several other bird species would be moved from endangered to threatened status, and others moved from endangered status to either species of concern or special interest status.

Barn owls, dark-eyed juncos, hermit thrushes, least bitterns and yellow-crowned night-herons will be moved from endangered to threatened status; sedge wrens will be moved from endangered to a species of concern and Canada warblers, little blue herons, magnolia warblers, northern waterthrushes and winter wrens will be moved from endangered to special interest status.

"This is good news for several species of Ohio wildlife. Our biologists determined that populations are stable for these species, and that's why we propose changing their listings," said Budzik.

A proposal to increase in the daily bag limit for squirrels from 4 to 6 will also be considered. "We looked at our squirrel population statistics, and at regulations in neighboring states, and have decided that we could easily provide additional recreational opportunity for Ohio's hunters without impacting the resource," said Pat Ruble, executive administrator for wildlife management and research.

If approved, deer hunting on private lands within Wildcat Hollow State Wildlife Area in Perry and Morgan counties during the Special Area Primitive Weapon Season would be discontinued to allow for fall turkey hunting at these sites.

"Wildcat Hollow is the only one of the three early special primitive weapons areas that includes private lands," said Ruble.

A number of private landowners within the area asked if they could fall turkey hunt on their own land in lieu of the deer hunts. "This would restrict deer hunters to the public lands only at Wildcat Hollow, and that still provides them with nearly 11,000 acres of good hunting land," Ruble said.

An extension of the falconry season is proposed allowing falconers to pursue non-migratory small game species from August 17, 2002 through March 10, 2003. Other proposals would move the opening day for muskrat trapping to November 10, which would coincide with the opening of raccoon trapping.

Also proposed is removal of the requirement for trappers to carry special written permission to use snares on private property, and addition of a requirement for fur dealers to provide a copy of their daily log of transactions along with their annual summary.