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Lake Metroparks introduces visitors to ‘Lost World’ of Ohio’s bygone wildlife

In World
February 20, 2024

Feb. 19—Though Ohioans no longer report seeing mountain lions, elk or passenger pigeons in the wild, visitors to Penitentiary Glen Reservation on Feb. 19 learned about these and other species that used to call the Buckeye State home.

The Lake Metroparks park in Kirtland said that the species featured at that day’s Lost World event are now extinct or extirpated. Extirpated means that they no longer live in Ohio but they survive elsewhere.

“It’s a good way to get people to learn about, maybe they didn’t know there used to be wolves or elk in Ohio, and they can learn why they’re not in Ohio anymore and hopefully inspire them to keep the animals that are still here from becoming extirpated or extinct,” said interpretive naturalist Tony Gaszo.

The Lost World Detective Agency activity encouraged visitors to use their sleuthing skills to learn why the passenger pigeon went extinct. Seasonal naturalist Jessica Volkert said that participants would also “write in how they can help other animals from meeting the same fate.”

“These guys flew in flocks of, like, millions,” she said of the pigeons. “It’s described in a lot of different writings as, like, it sounded like thunder as they were coming through.”

The last known passenger pigeon, Martha, died at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.

Outside on the front lawn, kids could play the Land of the Lost game. Interpretive naturalist Abby Mossbruger said that participants would learn why animals and plants like the ivory-billed woodpecker, lynx, gray wolf, blue pike, mountain fern moss and creeping snowberry no longer live in Ohio.

“For the ivory-billed woodpecker, they have to collect paper rolls and put them in the recycling bin to prevent further forest destruction,” she said. “For mountain fern moss, they’re jumping on the balance stones over there to avoid invasive plants. For the blue pike, they’re sorting through bins to make sure each bin has a specific number of fish, so they’re not overfishing.”

Mossbruger also had a map showing kids where the species used to live in Ohio.

Displays in the park’s Forest Hall showed other species that used to reside in the state. Gaszo said that these animals included elk and mountain lions, which were affected by hunting.

He added that the display also included “lots of long-extinct animals.” These included dinosaur species, though he said that no dinosaur fossils have been found in Ohio “because the rocks that are here are way too old, and the rocks that would have supported those fossils have eroded away over the years.”

Gaszo said that the park also had an activity showing the impact of animals going extinct.

The Forest Hall included animal chats with ambassadors from the neighboring Kevin P. Clinton Wildlife Center.

“Some of our animal chats are focusing on animals that are endangered,” Gaszo said. “Our new spotted turtle will be featured, and spotted turtles are endangered in Ohio, so, hopefully they can learn that there’s ways to protect things and protect animals, and even some of the plants, so that we don’t lose them.”

Visitor James Grenier said that Lost World was a “neat idea,” and that the passenger pigeon room provided “a really fun interactive activity.”

Visitor Kate Kutnick said that her family “learned about the importance of what we can do to protect our environment and what happens when you don’t.”

“It’s great that it’s low-barrier, no-barrier, everyone can come here and learn about the history of Ohio,” she added.

The park’s Lost World program was one of three Lake Metroparks events scheduled to mark Presidents Day. The Farmpark hosted Farmer Monday and the Environmental Learning Center hosted the craft-themed Craftacular Nature Day open house.

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