Nature Notes

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Special snakes showcased in daylong event

Decades ago, the resort destinations north of Marblehead Peninsula were known as "The Snake Islands," as they were crawling with a unique serpent found only in limited pockets of land bordered by Lake Erie.

The Lake Erie water snake soon encountered human eradication, habitat destruction and hogs that were brought to the islands in the early 20th century to devour them. In 1999, the brown, non-venomous reptile was listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Federal and state protections - along with the help of concerned scientists from across the country - have allowed the unique animal to rebound. About 12,000 of the species can be found today, most of them in Erie's western basin.

Kristin Stanford, a researcher known as the "Snake Lady," said at the Ohio Wildlife Diversity Conference in May that the species could soon be removed from the threatened list.

To celebrate the snake's success and inform Ohioans about it, educators will host a daylong program on Saturday, Aug. 23, on South Bass Island. Lake Erie Water Snake Day will include discussions of natural history and hand-on exhibits.


Man busted for allegedly growing pot in state park

During the past several years, environmental officials across the state have fought invasive species such as the tree of heaven, honeysuckle and garlic mustard. Recently, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources found a new one growing in Salt Fork Wildlife Area: cannabis sativa.

Guernsey County native Homer Hoop has been charged with cultivation of marijuana for allegedly growing 1,190 cheeba plants in a remote section of the 14,952-acre preserve in eastern Ohio.

"Having an operation like that is not only illegal, but it jeopardizes the sportsmen who are using the area," ODNR spokeswoman Susan Vance said. A wildlife area is used primarily for hunting, trapping and fishing.

Extended surveillance of Hoop's campsite began in the spring, when a hunter reported a man he thought might be squatting on the land. Hoop was arrested Aug. 7, and the investigation is ongoing.


Columbus pools to close; dogs not welcome

The last day to swim in the seven pools operated by the Columbus Division of Recreation and Parks is Sunday, Aug. 24.

Also, during Dog Week at Alive, a rumor floated past my desk about a city policy that allowed dogs to swim in Columbus pools on the final day of the season. That has never been the case, said Terri Leist, recreation and parks spokeswoman.

Wet fur would wreak havoc on the filtration system, so pets are not permitted at city pools.


Outdoor Tip of the Week

When backpacking, take two sheets of egg-crate foam about six feet long and 30 inches wide. Roll them up together, smooth sides out, with twine or pack straps. At night, lay one flat beneath a sleeping bag. Roll the other one up and stuff it inside an extra T-shirt for a great pillow.

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