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Officer Brings Wildlife Indoors

January 18, 2012

Staff photo/Beth Lipton: Auglaize County Wildlife Officer Matt Hoehn displays a coyote pelt during a presentation Tuesday at St. Marys Living Center.

ST. MARYS — A local wildlife officer spoke to a group of area seniors Tuesday afternoon at St. Marys Living Center about various animals found in Auglaize County.

“I’m going to talk to you today about some of the critters that we have here in Auglaize County,” Auglaize County Wildlife Officer Matt Hoehn said, displaying a box full of animal skins for seniors to see and feel. “Everything I have in this box, you’ve either seen or it’s around here.”

Hoehn began his presentation with a skunk skin, noting that the animal is commonly found in Auglaize County. The nocturnal animal feeds on grubs and eggs, and emits and odor for protection. Hoehn told attendees that he has been sprayed by a skunk once and it was not an enjoyable experience.

“I came across a litter of baby skunks,” he said. “Baby skunks are worse than the adults because babies don’t really know how to control their spray. Sometimes if they just get a little scared, they’ll spray. Whereas the adults typically spray as their last defense ... I didn’t get sprayed by just one, I think I got sprayed by the whole litter and it was just so overpowering. I couldn’t smell anymore.”

Some skunks, he said, have been domesticated and can make suitable pets.

“They do make decent pets,” he said. “They remove the scent gland and they’re real similar to cats. You can potty train them in a litter box. They’re fairly playful.”

Hoehn next presented the skin of another common, nocturnal animal. The raccoon, he said, is a mischievous animal that is typically found near water. He noted that residents of Auglaize County are not permitted to raise wild raccoons.

Opossums, he said, are the only marsupial in Auglaize County. The nocturnal animal has the most teeth of any mammal in the country, with 50. Hoehn added that opossums are, like the raccoon, a mischievous animal. He told attendees about a local woman who called in about a opossum that had found its way into her garage and into her bag of cat food. After removing the opossum and letting it go, it came back.

“The next day, it went back through the doggie door and back into the cat food bag,” Hoehn said.

Over the past 20 years, Hoehn said, the beaver has started to populate Auglaize County. The nocturnal animal is found around water and will slap its tail on the water for defense, Hoehn said.

The muskrat also spends most of its time in and around water, and Hoehn said the critter used to be in high demand for its fur.

Another sought after animal, the Mink, is also in demand for its fur, Hoehn said.

“It’s highly sought after and fairly valuable,” he said. “It has very soft fur.”

River otters are a more recent addition to the area, Hoehn said, and they cannot be trapped, as they are a protected by the state. He noted that river otters are enjoyable to watch

“It seems like all they want to do is play,” Hoehn said. “They play constantly. Especially the younger ones – they’re just back and forth, in and out of the water.”

Two types of fox call Auglaize County home, Hoehn said. The gray fox can be found in forest-like areas and tend to roam in the late evening and early morning. The gray fox can climb trees, he said, and feed on mice, chipmunks and the occasional rabbit.

Red fox, he said, are more commonly seen, as they tend to roam in open fields, feeding on mice and squirrel. The burnt orange fur and black ears are a contrast to the gray fox, whose coat shows more gray and black than orange.

Coyotes have also started to populate the county recently. Hoehn noted that the breeding season for coyotes begins in February and March, and it is more common to see coyotes traveling in groups during this time. By fall, he said, the groups separate, as the young coyotes are old enough to be on their own.

Badgers are another protected animal in the state, Hoehn said, noting that badgers are a species of concern in Ohio.

“We don’t have a whole lot of them and predominately they are here in west-central Ohio,” Hoehn said.

Hoehn also said Auglaize County is home to between 2,400 and 2,700 white tailed deer. He noted that the population is controlled through the harvesting season. So far, more than 600 deer have been harvested during archery season, and 88 deer were harvested in muzzleloader season.

“Every deer that’s harvested, you have to get it checked in,” Hoehn said. “That way we have an idea of how many deer are harvested in the county.”

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