Many of us already know that the animals of Ohio are an interesting bunch of creatures, yet some of them have hidden secrets or unusual habits that make them absolutely fascinating. For example, we have deer that swim across the Ohio River and honeybees that do a dance called the waggle.
Being in-the-know about some of these unusual animal traits often makes observing wildlife a little more exciting. Here are just a few examples of the wide range of wildlife trivia waiting to be uncovered.
Would you have ever guessed that deer can swim? With their powerful legs, white-tailed deer can swim as far as 10 miles, allowing them to easily cross lakes and rivers. The secret to their success is a well-designed coat, which acts as a flotation device
The undercoat is dense and wooly, while the outer layer is made up of long, hollow, air-filled hairs that provide buoyancy in the water. This built-in flotation system is so effective it keeps nearly a third of the deer’s body above water
But why would a deer cross a river as wide as the Ohio? State wildlife biologists say sometimes deer are frightened into waterways then just keep on swimming. At other times, they intentionally enter the water in search of “greener pastures.” Up on Ohio’s north coast, deer have even been spotted swimming in Lake Erie, often times heading for one of the nearby islands
Another curiosity in Ohio’s animal kingdom is the dance of the honey bee. In addition to constantly cleaning, building and guarding the hive, some worker bees are assigned the task of going out to find nectar and pollen. When they return from a hunting trip, they dance for other members of the colony, indicating the location of the food source. The “round” dance tells the others that food is nearby. However, more distant food locations require the dance of the “waggle.” Through a variety of movements, the bee specifies the direction of the food supply in relation to the sun’s position and distance by the speed of the dance the slower the dance, the farther away the food
Professor Karl von Frisch is credited with defining the round and waggle dances. During his studies in the early 1900s, he became so good at interpreting the waggle that he could locate the source of bee food himself!
Within our waterways there are also many interesting facts to discover. Did you know, for instance, that there are jellyfish living in the Buckeye State? These quarter-size freshwater jellies favor living in still waters, such as farm ponds. Their umbrella shaped bodies are semitransparent with a hint of green or white. Jellyfish often appear in large numbers called “blooms,” and eat microscopic creatures called zooplankton. Similar to true marine jellyfish, their string-like tentacles have stinging cells, which can be used to stun their small prey. A sunny day during later summer when food is most abundant is the best time to try and spot jellies.
Just as the popular 1960s song says “To everything turn, turn, turn,” a number of wildlife species have a special knack for that very thing. A squirrel’s hind ankles are so flexible they can rotate their feet completely backwards. Not only does this help them to dexterously run up and down trees, but also hang upside down on branches … a handy skill for accessing backyard bird feeders! The praying mantis stands out in the insect world as being the only bug capable of turning its head side-to-side. Owls are also known to be real head turners. An owl’s eyes are fixed in its head, which means it cannot move them in any direction. To make up for this handicap, these creatures of the night are able to rotate their heads 270 degrees (nearly full circle) by comparison, most of us can swivel our noggins a mere 180 degrees from shoulder to shoulder.
There is so much more to learn about Ohio’s wildlife, but if you are like me, every little bit makes the next wildlife watching opportunity that much more enjoyable.