Last night, at our monthly LOUA meeting, we spoke about the usual things: membership, upcoming events, grants, and of course, planting more trees. Then we had a presentation by Mike Graziano, who is an adjunct professor at Columbus State as well as a doctoral student at Ohio State. He studies ecological restoration and snakes, frog, toads, and salamanders and the like. Part of his presentation included species native to Franklin County that were no longer around, either extinct or extirpated from the county. That’s a fancy word for saying the species used to be found in Franklin County but hasn’t for a long time even though it still exists elsewhere.
That got me to wondering just what sorts of things used to be in Ohio and are no longer. There are eleven species lost forever, including some fish, mollusks and a beetle, Kramer’s cave beetle. Now to be honest, those sound like the kind of things you might not miss, simply because they would have been rarely seen by most people even when there were many around. I’ll admit that other than in an Italian restaurant, I’ve never seen a mollusk in the wild. And searching the Internet turned up not one picture of the Kramer’s cave beetle.
Also on the list was the Carolina Parakeet. In looking at this colorful bird, I can’t imagine it living anywhere outside a jungle. It was the only parrot species native to the Eastern US and was called the pot pot chee by the Seminole. These birds lived along rivers, nesting in hollow trees, eating insects and fruit. The last wild bird died in 1904 while the last one in captivity died in 1918 at the Cincinnati Zoo, ironically in the same cage that the last passenger pigeon also died in. Removal of its habitat, using the feathers for hats, and hunting all contributed to the decline of the parakeet. However, most believe that the birds finally became extinct from a disease carried by chickens.
The extirpated species list was much longer, with 35 species on it, including bison, elk, and porcupines, to name a few. There were also some birds, fish and mollusks. Mike also mentioned the hellbender (which Pete had seen elsewhere, saying they were “Neat!”), a very large salamander, reaching over two feet in length as well as the Pickerel frog.
I think it’s so sad that these creatures are no longer around, that some only exist as stuffed versions while others were so “unimportant” that their image can’t even be found on the Internet. In some cases, the last living example died with no fanfare, out in the wild. In other cases, the last example died in a zoo. In all cases, humans somehow had an impact in what happened to the species. LOUA is hopeful that by adding native trees to our area, we can bring back some of the species that have gone outside Franklin County, or preserve those populations that still exist but are dwindling.
I, for one, would have truly enjoyed waking up to see a Carolina Parakeet outside my window.
Until next time.