Location & Description
This 5,671-acre wildlife area is situated in northeastern Ohio in portions of Wayne and Holmes counties. The area extends north from Holmesville to three miles south of Wooster, and lies between State Route 83 on the east and State Route 226 on the west. The area is in a shallow, U-shaped glacial outwash valley. The elevation varies from 840 feet at the floor of Killbuck Creek near Holmesville to nearly 1,000 feet on hillsides parallel to the valley floor. About 56 percent of the acquisition unit consists of marsh and swamp that is flooded during some portion of the year. This complex is Ohio’s largest remaining marshland outside of the Lake Erie region.
History & Purpose
Purchase of land for Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area began in 1969. Additional land is being acquired as funds become available. The wildlife management plan provides for maintenance and protection of the existing woodlands, establishment of regular crop rotations, improvement of open fields for wildlife nesting by controlled burning and selective spraying, and establishment of food patches for general wildlife use. Permanent wildlife cover has been provided by planting thousands of trees and shrubs. Wright’s Marsh, a 350-acre diked wetland off SR 226, was restored in partnership with Ducks Unlimited. Dikes and water control structures are being developed to increase and improve the wetland habitat on the area.
Killbuck Creek, which flows through the area, supports good populations of northern pike, carp, suckers, and bullheads. Most panfish species are found in abundance in area ponds. Wood duck, muskrat, cottontail rabbit, and raccoon are the principal game and furbearer species. Deer, woodchuck, fox squirrel, and most of Ohio’s other furbearers are common. Beaver have become fairly numerous; they have created excellent habitat for many furbearers, waterfowl, fish, frogs, and turtles. The river otter was released on the wildlife area in January 1991 and the trumpeter swan, a state and federal endangered species, was released here in August 1997. Current river otter populations have expanded so dramaticaly throughout the state that their endangered species status has been removed. In 2005 Ohio initiated its first river otter trapping season. A great variety of nesting and migrant birds utilize the area. Of particular interest is the spring migration of waterfowl and songbirds. Prothonotary warblers and barn owls use artificial nesting structures, as do the wood ducks, Canada geese, screech-owls, kestrels, and bluebirds. Among the rare and unusual birds which have been observed are the peregrine falcon, black rail, cattle egret, and Eurasian wigeon. Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area is one of the few locations in Ohio where the sandhill crane nests and rears its young as does the bald eagle. The eastern massasauga, a small wetland rattlesnake, is occasionally found on the area.
Waterfowl hunting is very popular at this site. The most common species on the area are the wood duck and Canada goose, followed by the blue-winged teal and mallard. Upland game species are well distributed throughout the wildlife area because of the uniform distribution of crop fields, shrubby coverts, grasslands, and woods. Raccoon hunting is productive throughout the area, especially along swamp edges. Furbearers, especially muskrats, provide many hours of recreational opportunity for trappers. Killbuck Creek offers good fishing for northern pike, carp, suckers, and bullheads. Several ponds offer fair to good fishing for most panfish species. Frog and turtle hunting are popular activities in the marshy portions of the area. A walking-only trail for wildlife observation follows the abandoned B&O Railroad, through the center of the area. The trail is four miles long, and passes through a large variety of habitats. Funding for the trail comes from Ohio’s Endangered Species and Wildlife Diversity income tax checkoff.