When I was a little girl, whenever I visited my grandparents farm, I spent a fair amount of time in the woods. There was a section with tall pines filtering out the sunlight and a spongy floor, it was strangely quiet, with only the breeze whispering through the trees.
On the other side of the pasture was the hardwood trees. Massive oaks with branches reaching down to the ground as well as up to the sky, played host to squirrels, birds and the occasional raccoon. Sassafras trees which smelled wonderful and had such beautiful leaves. Maple trees whose seed pods created such fun whirly toys. The ground had layers of leaves which were fun to shuffle through, mixed in with patches of velvety moss. It was a fascinating place to explore and play. The forest offered all sorts of secrets if you were willing to look. A half-decayed leaf showed the delicate lacework of the veins delivering nutrients to the tree, deeper underneath the leaves, were pill bugs, slugs, wooly worms – all fascinating to study. It was a peaceful playhouse in the dappled sunlight as birds chirped and squirrels went about their business.
Back in the 1980’s, the biggest wild animal we would see with any sort of regularity were groundhogs. Large rodents who dug massive holes in pastures and under barns, they are vegetarians and as long as you left them alone, they would ignore you. Because of the lack of animals, to some extent, I always felt safe in the woods.
It was this experience which made me certain that someday, I would live in a house in the woods, much like the characters of the many story books from the library. I thought about this goal the other day while reading a publication from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Apparently, the playhouse of my youth has evolved, giving me second thoughts about living amongst the animals.
According to the ODNR, Ohio is now home to multiple apex predators due to extensive conservation efforts. Southern and southeastern Ohio have documented sightings of not just coyotes, which seem to be everywhere, but also, wild boars, black bears, and bobcats. Our plentiful populations of deer, rabbits and other small game has made their reappearance possible. Cleaner water in our streams and lakes create safe environments for beaver, muskrats and even mink. Eagles are nesting throughout Ohio and you see some species of hawk everywhere you look.
As a kid, I remember being excited to see a redwing black bird, and a deer was an absolute rarity. I wonder if kids today have any idea how lucky they are to be surrounded with such diverse lifeforms? I daresay the idea that coyotes were only something in wild west movies or Saturday morning cartoons would amuse most people under the age of 20.
I encourage everyone to go walk through the local parks or wildlife areas in the next week while the weather is still nice. Enjoy the brilliant colors, fresh air and animal sightings, and if you happen to hear a flock of geese flying overhead, just smile, because it will still sound better than the political ads we have listened to for the past three months.
Written and submitted by Sarah Roush for The Circleville Herald. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.