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Division of Wildlife

The Division of Wildlife’s mission is to conserve and improve fish and wildlife resources and their habitats for sustainable use and appreciation by all.

About the Division of Wildlife

The Division of Wildlife is a direct descendant of the Ohio Fish Commission, which was created by the General Assembly in 1873 to deal with declining fish populations in Ohio's inland lakes and streams. In 1949 the division was joined with other state conservation agencies under the mantle of the newly created Department of Natural Resources. By that time the original Fish Commission's duties had expanded to include law enforcement, fish and wildlife management, propagation, research, stream improvement, and pollution investigation. The job has continued to grow. In 1968 the division became responsible for enforcing Ohio's stream litter law. Its mission was broadened enormously in 1973 by the statutory addition of several hundred more species of wild animals to its care, and two years later by the legal mandate to identify, manage, and protect all endangered species in Ohio.

Land acquisition, harvest regulations, and licensing are fundamental tools in the management of Ohio's wildlife resources. The division manages or cooperates in managing over 750,000 acres of diverse wildlife lands throughout the state, plus more than 2 1/4 million acres of water. Based on biological data and public input, it issues regulations that supplement long-term statutes to protect wildlife and to provide the public with opportunities to benefit from wildlife for recreational, scientific, and other purposes.

Division of Wildlife projects are carried out by a team of nearly 400 trained personnel. Funds from Ohio sportsmen and women provide 95 of every 100 dollars which pay for all these activities. The Division faces many challenges in the pursuit of its goal to ensure an abundance of high quality wildlife experiences for today's Ohioans and for future generations.


The following are the division's most deeply held values and ideals. These statements guide us as we plan, develop and implement projects. By making them part of our strategic plan, we will be reaffirming to our constituents, other agencies and our employees that these are the principles we believe are important.

The Division of Wildlife believes that:

  • Input from constituents and open lines of communication with the public are essential.
  • Fish and wildlife recreation is socially and economically important to Ohio.
  • Sustainable consumptive use of fish and wildlife through hunting, fishing, and trapping is at the heart of effective conservation.
  • Fish and wildlife management must be based on the best available science.
  • Partnerships are necessary for effective fish and wildlife conservation.
  • Conservation is our priority when managing lands and waters.
  • The right to own and use firearms is essential to continue our hunting and shooting sports traditions.
  • A dedicated and professional workforce is key to achieving long-term success.
  • Effective fish and wildlife conservation requires integration of a unified wildlife agency.
  • Diverse fish and wildlife populations benefit everyone.
  • Providing quality customer service is critical to achieving our mission.
  • Diverse and dedicated funding is necessary for fish and wildlife conservation.
  • Fiscal responsibility is crucial to the future of Ohio's fish and wildlife management.

Fish Management

The Division of Wildlife manages the fisheries of 124,000 acres of inland water, 7,000 miles of streams, 2 1/4 million acres of Lake Erie, and Ohio's portion of 481 miles of the Ohio River. For the benefit of approximately two million anglers and other resource users, the division manages water areas by improving spawning habitat, installing fish attractors, stocking, implementing fishing regulations, and incorporating structural features to improve fish habitat. Management also includes monitoring fish populations and angler harvest by conducting electrofishing, netting, and creel censuses. An important service to anglers is the construction and maintenance of facilities such as shoreline fishing areas and boat ramps at piers and parking areas. Efforts continue to make these and other facilities available to persons with mobility disabilities. Providing fisheries information to the public through publications, clinics, and personal contact is an important aspect of serving Ohio's anglers.

To maintain a variety of fishing in Ohio, the division operates six hatcheries which annually propagate up to 40 million fish. Some of the primary species produced are walleye, saugeye, channel catfish, hybrid striped bass, muskellunge, and rainbow trout.

The division conducts research on Ohio's inland lakes and streams and the Ohio River to develop management practices that will improve the fisheries of these waters. The fisheries of Lake Erie are monitored constantly, in cooperation with the other Lake Erie states and the province of Ontario, to develop management programs for this heavily fished body of water.

Fish Ohio is an annual recognition program for anglers who catch trophy-sized fish in any of 17 categories.

Wildlife Management

Wildlife management consists of projects that affect wildlife populations and wildlife recreational users. These projects usually involve habitat manipulation, management of wildlife populations, land acquisition, research, or the creation of opportunities for people to enjoy wildlife.

Healthy wildlife populations depend on good habitat, so habitat maintenance and improvement receive a lot of emphasis. On private lands, efforts are geared toward incentive programs to improve habitat, especially for agricultural and woodland landowners. Habitat manipulation is practiced more directly on the more than 135,000 acres of public land owned by the division.

Public lands are important for wildlife production and for recreation, making land acquisition a high priority for the division. Some of the best hunting, trapping, and wildlife observation opportunities in Ohio occur on state wildlife areas. Because more than 90 percent of the state's original wetlands have been lost to development, wetlands represent an especially critical habitat, and receive special attention. The division manages more wetland acres than any other public or private interest in the state.

Management of wildlife populations is also a vital program area. Biologically based seasons are necessary for both the protection and control of some wildlife populations, and these seasons provide the framework for countless hours of wildlife recreation. Many projects are aimed at restoring natural populations, and recent efforts have involved wild turkeys, bald eagles, river otters, and peregrine falcons.

Wildlife research is part of the foundation for division programs, and provides the basic information needed for setting seasons, making management decisions, and evaluating the status of wildlife populations. Research projects also pioneer new ways to tackle problems and improve existing programs. The division has four research stations: Waterloo, Crane Creek, Olentangy, and Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve. Research is carried out in cooperation with Ohio colleges and universities as well.

Law Enforcement

Wildlife management requires effective enforcement of laws and regulations. Enforcement is a wildlife management tool designed to protect the wildlife resource, ensure fair and equitable use of the resource, protect state property, and enforce the litter and pollution statutes. Wildlife officers in each of Ohio's 88 counties, wildlife agents in the five administrative districts, and wildlife officers at Lake Erie enforce all laws pertaining to wild animals. They also enforce Ohio's stream litter law and state criminal laws on property owned or controlled by the Division of Wildlife. Annually, wildlife officers contact thousands of Ohio sportsmen and women in the field, perform fish and wildlife surveys, work with nuisance wildlife, and teach classes on wildlife management, hunter education, trapping, and fishing. Each year they make approximately 10,000 arrests, with a conviction record of over 98 percent. Since 1964, field investigations by wildlife law officers have led to the recovery of over $100,000 per year in damages to wild animals - mostly fish - killed as result of water pollution.

The division's Turn In a Poacher (TIP) program is designed to reduce poaching and other wildlife violations. TIP enlists the cooperation of the public in reporting violations to the Division of Wildlife through field offices and the toll-free 1-800-POACHER telephone number. Sources of information may remain anonymous.

Information & Education

People enjoy learning about wildlife. The Division of Wildlife actively participates in a variety of education projects designed to increase the knowledge of all Ohioans who have an interest in wildlife resources.

Wildlife education officers and other personnel conduct many of these education projects statewide. They also work in cooperation with Ohio's news media-radio, newspaper, and television-to explain wildlife management to the public.

Strong emphasis is placed on efforts to educate elementary and secondary students about Ohio's wildlife. The division is actively involved in bringing Project WILD into schools around Ohio. Project WILD is an environmental conservation education project designed to supplement existing curriculums and to create an awareness and appreciation of the wildlife resource.

A comprehensive Aquatic Resources Education project provides angling instruction for beginners, fishing activities at the Ohio State Fair, a wide variety of fishing clinics, and Aquatic Project WILD that emphasizes the value and function of wetlands and aquatic ecosystems.

Specially trained volunteer instructors teach hunter safety and trapper education courses to thousands of youths each year. Hunter and trapper education courses are mandatory for first-time hunters and trappers. The courses are designed to instill a code of ethics and responsibility, as well as provide instruction in special skills, equipment, wildlife management, and regulations.

Wild Ohio Magazine

Wild Ohio Magazine has something for everyone interested in Ohio’s wildlife. Readers enjoy a surplus of hunting, fishing, and watchable wildlife articles.

Wild Ohio for Kids is published once each year, at the beginning of the school year. Each Wild Ohio for Kids issue is fun and educational, making it a useful tool in educational programs.