During the late 1800s and the early 1900s, many of Ohio’s native wildlife species were all but decimated by loss of habitat and unregulated hunting. Waterfowl populations were declining drastically due to pollution. White-tailed Deer and Wild Turkey, some of Ohio’s most abundant animals, were gone from the state.
During the 1940s, Natural Resource and Conservation Agencies were formed to instruct and teach land users on proper land management, pollution control, and regulated hunting. With the help of these agencies, the proper habitat returned, and so did the wildlife. Today, wildlife that was once gone from this area has returned to great numbers again. Two of Ohio’s great game species, the White-tailed Deer and the Wild Turkey, are now very plentiful in the state.
We now have 681,000 deer and nearly 225,000 Wild Turkey in Ohio. Both of these species, along with many others, can be found in the Barnesville area and adjacent lands in Belmont County.
The diversity of wildlife in the Barnesville area makes this area a great place to enjoy many different types of recreational activities. Whether you enjoy hunting or fishing, hiking or bird watching, or if you are just a wildlife enthusiast, the opportunities are endless.
In the northwestern part of the county lies nearly 14,200 acres of wildlife area. This area is called Egypt Valley Wildlife Area and is owned by the State of Ohio. All of the acreage is open to the public. The wildlife area contains many different habitat types from upland hardwood forest to bottomland wetlands, and grasslands to brushlands. These habitat types provide many types of homes for many species of wildlife such as White-tailed Deer, Wild Turkey, Ruffed Grouse, Cottontail Rabbits, Squirrels, all sorts of song birds, many types of waterfowl, coyotes and even the occasional Black Bear. North of the wildlife area is the Piedmont Reservoir Region, which in itself offers a vast number of recreational opportunities. If you’d like to fish for Muskie and Saugeye or watch a Bald Eagle gliding gracefully through the sky, Piedmont Lake is a place you should visit.
Piedmont Lake and it’s watershed is also a place where you may get a chance to catch a peek at a species that has been reintroduced to Ohio and has now increased it’s population – the River Otter. The River Otter was recently taken off the state’s Endangered Species list and now numbers about 3,400 statewide.
In the Southwestern part of the county just below Barnesville is the Barnesville Reservoir Area. There are three reservoirs, and around the shores of them you can find mature upland hardwood forest that provide food and homes to many woodland creatures. The largest of the three reservoirs is Slope Creek. Every spring the Ohio Division of Wildlife stocks Rainbow Trout, making it a popular early season fishing spot. These reservoirs are also great places to view one of Ohio’s most numerous waterfowl species, the Canada goose.
Further east, near the town of Belmont, is Barkcamp State Park. The park has a mixture of farmlands, wooded areas, and grasslands, making it a popular hangout for wildlife. Barkcamp has many camping sites available, hiking trails and bridal trails. The park is also opened to hunting from late fall through winter For specific dates and regulations, stop by the park office or call and talk with one of the park staff. The park’s most popular spot is 117 acre Belmont Lake. The lake has good populations of Largemouth Bass, Catfish, and Bluegills. The Division of Wildlife stocks Rainbow Trout in this lake every spring, making it another popular fishing spot.
With all of this wildlife making Belmont County home, it is not uncommon to have some conflicts arise between people and the wildlife. The Belmont Soil and Water Conservation District, in cooperation with Ohio Division of Wildlife, has provided a Wildlife Specialist to address such issues in Belmont County. The wildlife specialist will work with landowners to provide an improved habitat or better food for wildlife and will work with landowners to come up with techniques to keep wildlife populations at healthy levels for the benefit of the wildlife, the environment, and the landowner. If you or someone you know is in need of assistance with wildlife issues, you can call the Belmont Soil and Water Conservation District at (740) 425-1100 ext. 110 and ask for Wildlife Specialist Scott