Whether a casual woodland hiker, avid birdwatcher, or seasoned hunter, wildlife viewing opportunities abound in the Raccoon Creek Watershed. And with the vast amount of public land, everyone is able to enjoy these precious living resources! Just remember, wildlife is wild and for the safety of you and the animals, should be enjoyed from a respectful distance and should never be approached.
Rare, Threatened, and Endangered Species
With a little patience and excellent observational skills, your streamside wanderings might turn up one of the threatened, rare, or endangered species that call the Raccoon Creek watershed home. One federally threatened species, the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), one of 13 bat species found in Ohio, has been sighted in the Wayne National Forest. Other rare or endangered species utilizing the habitat in and around Raccoon Creek include bald eagles, river otters, timber rattlesnakes, sharp-shinned hawks, red-shouldered hawks, cerulean warblers, Eastern box turtles, bobcats, and black bears.
The timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus horridus) is on the state’s endangered species list and is designated as endangered or threatened in 17 other states. In the early 1800s, the species was found in 24 counties; now they occur in only eight. One of three venomous snakes found in Ohio (along with the copperhead and massasauga rattlesnake), the timid timber rattlesnake avoids human encounters and is not aggressive unless provoked. An inhabitant of the MeadWestvaco Experimental Forest, the elusive timber rattlesnake is a topic of scientific research and educational tours.
Eastern Spadefoot Toad
The eastern spadefoot toad (Scaphiopus holbrookii), the only endangered frog in Ohio, is found in the sandy soils of southeast Ohio’s river valleys. The spadefoot lives primarily underground, but during times of heavy rain, congregate at breeding grounds in a reproductive frenzy. Two of the five known populations of eastern spadefoot toads occur in Raccoon Creek watershed counties, one in Meigs and one in Athens.
Once common throughout eastern Ohio, another state endangered species, the bobcat (Felis rufus) was extirpated from the state in 1850. Fortunately, the elusive cat seems to be making a comeback, as there were 20 verified sightings (through road-kill, photograph, accidental trapping, etc.) in Ohio in 2005 alone. Many of these reports originated here in the Raccoon Creek Watershed!
Black bears (Ursus americanus), removed from the state in the 1800s by deforestation and predator control programs, were completely extirpated from Ohio by the 1850s. However, like the bobcat, numbers are on the rise! As natural succession increases the acreage of forested land in Ohio, black bears have been able to return. According to the division of Wildlife, there were 105 black bear sightings (representing about 58 individuals) in 2005, including sows with cubs! Bears are frequently misrepresented as vicious killers, but in reality, are shy curious creatures who tend to avoid urbanized areas and feed primarily on vegetation, nuts, berries, and carrion (dead animals). Problems with wildlife occur when humans feed wild animals, creating nuisance individuals who lose their fear of humans.
Hunting is a popular sport, both for residents of the watershed and for those visiting from urban areas. Extirpated from the state for almost 20 years, Ohio’s state mammal and our only large game animal, the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), is now a plentiful inhabitant of the Raccoon Creek watershed. Deer hunting draws a large crowd, with archery season from late September through January, shotgun season in late November and mid-December, and muzzleloader season in late December. The counties included in the Raccoon Creek watershed have some of the highest white-tailed deer harvest rates in the state. Athens County came in the highest of the six Raccoon Creek counties in the 2006-2007 hunting season with 5,124 deer harvested, while Vinton County had the fewest taken at 3,420 (ODNR Summary of 2006-07 Ohio Deer Seasons)
Continuing the annual deer harvest is vital to maintaining a healthy deer density as they have few natural predators. Without hunting pressure deer populations would quickly explode, resulting in the rapid overexploitation of food resources, more deer-vehicle collisions, and an overall unhealthy herd. Aside from humans, the only large predator capable of controlling deer numbers is the coyote (Canis latrans). Though not frequently seen due to their elusive behavior, coyotes are becoming relatively common throughout the area. Coyotes resemble medium-sized domestic dogs and prey primarily on rodents and rabbits but will also remove young and unhealthy deer from the herd.
Other popular game species in the watershed include turkeys, rabbits, doves, grouse, squirrel, and various waterfowl. Over the years, area trappers have also experienced success with viable populations of beaver, muskrat, fox, mink, raccoon, opossum, skunk, and weasel. Visit the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife Page for more hunting and trapping information.
Bird watching is the fastest growing outdoor hobby in the world, growing over 200% in the past two years! The Hocking Valley Birding Trail is an excellent resource for birders in the Raccoon Creek area. Portions of the trail cross Lake Hope State Park in the 26,824 acre Zaleski State Forest. The park is known for an abundance of migrating spring warblers and other uncommon Ohio species including prothonotary warblers, pileated woodpeckers, red-headed woodpeckers, purple finches, worm-eating warblers, and the state endangered cerulean warbler. Another popular Hocking Valley Birding Trail destination is Waterloo Wildlife Area near New Marshfield at the junction of State Routes 356 and 56. Species commonly encountered here include cerulean warblers, scarlet tanagers, and wild turkeys.
Birds are everywhere in the watershed, so grab your binoculars and get outdoors!
Within the watershed, there are four Wildlife Areas and one Public Hunting Area managed by the Division of Wildlife. These areas are open to the public for wildlife and bird watching, fishing, and hunting. Maps and descriptions of each are available at the following links:
Wellston Wildlife Area located in Vinton County has 1,298 acres on which public fishing and hunting is allowed.
Waterloo Wildlife Area located in Athens County has 1,522 acres on which public fishing and hunting is allowed.
Tycoon Lake Wildlife Arealocated in Gallia County has 684 acres available for public fishing and hunting.
Buckeye Furnace Mining Company Public Hunting Area in Jackson County has 1,034 acres for public hunting and fishing.
Cooper Hollow Wildlife Areain Jackson County has 5,421 acres for public hunting and fishing.
See maps of all of Ohio’s Wildlife Areas