The following was originally posted in the February 2011 Nature Notes, Heartland Outdoor School’s newsletter:
Missing: Large Mammals of Ohio
Did you know that the largest commonly found mammal wandering Ohio now is the Whitetail Deer? However, if you were to go back in time to the 1700’s wildlife would be very different. Imagine looking out your window and seeing a bison in your backyard. Until the mid-1800’s it would not have been uncommon to see many large mammals including the American Bison, Elk, Eastern Timber Wolf, Black Bear, Bobcat, Lynx, and Cougar.
The term for an animal that still exists but no longer lives in the area is extirpation or local extinction. All of these large mammals have been extirpated from Ohio. They were either hunted to extinction or were driven out from a decrease in habitat. However, over trapping and hunting are the main reasons why we no longer see these creatures. The Eastern Timber Wolf, for example, had a $15 bounty for each hide because they were killing so many sheep. Like the wolf, other large animals were either hunted out of fear or the desire for the pelts and meat.
As time has gone on, some things have changed. The Black Bear and Bobcat are both returning to Ohio very slowly, going from the extinct list back to the endangered list.