May 19, 2017 at 2:28 pm

Working on the Wayne | ‘Just Takes Your Breath Away’

By Devon Cottrill

When you say a national forest, most people envision large oaks or even maples whose tree tops block out the sun while you’re meandering down a hiking or biking trail.

When someone says you work with wildlife, most think of the “cute-fuzzy-lovable” wildlife like bears, bobcats, wolves, etc. But when you work for Wayne National Forest in Southeastern Ohio, those are not what you see on a day-to-day basis.

So let’s start this by giving you a quick run down of what our project is.

Wayne National Forest is currently in the process of creating a new mountain bike path that will span approximately 30 miles; well, phase one will be approximately 30 miles. Once the project is 100 percent complete, it’ll be approximately 100 miles. With a project this expansive, careful planning and consideration has to take place in order to optimize the trail and prevent or limit any adverse effects on the wildlife and landscape.

This is where Kyle Brooks and I (as Wildlife Interns) come into play, along with Plant Biology and Archaeology Interns.

Wayne National Forest undergrowth

Picture Crawling Through Miles Thorny Plants

When I say they are in the beginning phase of this project, I mean it is about as rugged as it gets in Wayne. Picture crawling through miles of Green-brier, Multi-Flora and other various thorny plants that would love to nothing but “eat” your arms and legs as you try and make it to the open canopy sections.

But man, when you get past the thorny bushes, it just takes your breath away. There is such variation between the forest types depending on where we’re traveling, no two days are ever the same. Some sections have young forest (0- to 37-year-old trees), some have been burned within the last couple of years and some have HUGE mature oaks that really make you take a step back and appreciate Mother Nature. But let’s get to the wildlife part of this project.

Two box turtles in Wayne National Forest.

No Bears, Bobcats, or Wolves, But…

Lets get one thing out in the open, no, we have not seen any bears, bobcats, wolves or anything of that nature. Though it would be AMAZING if we did, it probably will not happen. BUT there is so much more to wildlife than the “cute” animals such as beetles, dragonflies, birds, turtles, snakes, etc. During our first week, we didn’t see much of anything. We had an abnormal cold snap that made a lot of the animals go into hiding making it almost impossible for us to see them.

Fast forward a week. We finally had weather that allowed these animals to come out of hiding. There were some salamanders, lots of American toads, box turtles and a couple snakes. We were also able to go out at night (very late night) and heard the calls of quite a few barred owls and a few Eastern whip-poor-will.

Blue Corporals dragonfly, on a tree

Blue Corporals

Recently, Kyle and I came across a small population of Blue Corporals in Wayne. The last known record for these guys in Athens County were in 1999 and 2000 when they were found on private property in Athens County. As for the Wayne National Forest, this is the first time that the Blue Corporals have been spotted in the Athens County area and documented; they have been documented in parts of Wayne found in Hocking County. Needless to say, when this information was received, Kyle and I became super excited, and so did those in Wayne.

We’re only two weeks into this project so hopefully we will be seeing A LOT more wildlife throughout the forest, but from where I stand, I am already in love with my job this summer.

Rock outcropping at Wayne National Forest


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *