COLUMBUS — Ohioans have a real love affair with birds, despite increased complaints about Canada geese.
According to a telephone survey poll conducted in March by the Ohio Division of Wildlife, the percentage of Ohioans who say they often watch birds around their homes increased from 20 to 31 percent since 1995. But perhaps more impressive, the average number of bird feeders maintained increased from .7 to 1.3 per household. The percentage of Ohioans who said they plant vegetation to benefit birds and other wildlife increased from 36 to 52 percent.
"Interest in wildlife diversity remains popular for many people and it represents a $500 million a year industry in Ohio. As a group, birds are an abundant wildlife resource and there are many opportunities to view various wildlife species at home and across the state," said Michael J Budzik, chief of the state wildlife agency.
When asked how often birds were fed at home bird feeders, the average survey response was five months. About one in four Ohioans said they walk more than ten times each year specifically to enjoy viewing wildlife, but most (31 percent) said they walked or hiked one to three times each year.
The strongest response came from 97 percent of the survey respondents who said that wildlife diversity programs should include those that focus on educating school children about wildlife conservation, followed by recovery of threatened and endangered species (96 percent) and acquiring and maintaining places for viewing wildlife (91 percent).
Nearly two of every three survey respondents said all Ohioans should pay something to help support wildlife diversity programs and 73 percent said they were willing to pay their fair share, which was an average of $46 per year. However, some respondents were not as supportive and told the wildlife agency that such funding should remain voluntary and that more could be done to explain how contributions to the state^s wildlife diversity program are utilized.
Most people (87 percent) said they have seen Ohio^s wildlife conservation license plate that features the cardinal, but only four percent said they owned the specialty plate which has an added cost of $25 above the normal license registration fees. When asked if they would purchase Ohio^s new bald eagle license plate, which went on sale June 1, 48 percent said they would. The bald eagle license plate also costs $25 above the normal fees.
For each bald eagle license plate sold, the Division of Wildlife^s wildlife diversity fund receives $15, which according to legislation signed by Governor Bob Taft is earmarked exclusively for the state^s bald eagle restoration project. More than 450 of the new bald eagles license plates have already been purchased.
The wildlife agency said despite a record 56 pairs of breeding eagles now present in the state, which combined produced a record total of 72 eaglets this year, the nation^s symbol would remain on the state^s endangered and threatened species list. Last month, the White House and U.S. Department of Interior officially declared the bald eagle was being removed from the federal list of endangered species.
The cardinal license plate first went on sale in March, 1997 and has generated approximately $1.6 million in revenues for the wildlife diversity fund. Contributions made through the state income tax-checkoff program for wildlife conservation generates more than $500,000 annually for wildlife diversity programs.
"We have been involved in a number of new and exciting projects aimed at enhancing wildlife diversity for the benefit of all Ohioans. Among these are projects including the bald eagle, peregrine falcon, osprey, trumpeter swan, Karner blue butterfly, barn owl, American burying beetle, lake sturgeon, and paddlefish. Some of our wildlife diversity work has also focused on acquiring, enhancing, and protecting various habitats that are critical to the needs of these and other wildlife species," said Budzik.