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Ever wondered who left that footprint? What kind of berries are those? Or why is that White-tailed Deer white all over? Look no further than your local naturalists, the people at your Geauga Park District whose job it is to help you understand the natural world around you.


Use the form below to submit your question – ideally with a photo (if available), description of sighting (including size) and location of sighting (somewhere in Northeast Ohio) – and you’ll receive an email when a naturalist responds.

Please note that while this form does collect your name and contact information, those items will not be posted with your question, only used in case we need to contact you for additional details.

What have other people been asking lately? Scroll below the form and enjoy some other naturalist Q&As on us!

Ask a Naturalist

Step 1 of 2 - Sighting Details

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  • Who was the namesake of Welton’s Gorge?

    Question

    I recently experienced the new Welton's Gorge park this weekend and it left me wondering, who was Welton? I noticed off the trail there was a crumbling fireplace and chimney, could this have part of the home of Mr. Welton?

    Naturalist's Response

    Hello,

    We are currently researching the history of the Welton’s Gorge property. We do know that the gorge was named after Lewis Welton, who was born in New Haven County, Connecticut, and came to Geauga sometime around 1830. The Geauga County tax map from 1830 shoes Mr. Welton owning the property at that time.

    As for the chimney, we know that this could not have been part of the residence of Mr. Welton. The building was apparently made of sheet metal and would have been built after Welton’s time.

    Stay tuned for more information! We are learning new things every day and plan on installing a trailside sign about the history sometime in the near future.

    -Naturalist John Kolar

  • Please tell me about the huge turtle I saw at Beartown!

    Question

    Today April 8th around 4pm we were on the bridge by Middle Bear Lake (coming off the Whitetail Trail), we were looking for the small turtles we saw before winter set in. We spotted a HUGE turtle (tortoise?) that we have not seen before! The neck was so long and he swam under the bridge. remarkable! Can you share any info about him?

    Naturalist's Response

    Adult snapping turtle

    Howdy!

    Our largest turtle is the Snapping Turtle, Chelydra serpentina, shown above. Adults regularly grow to lengths of two feet or more, and they’re happy to spend sunny weather lording over Geauga County ponds!

    Though they’re the largest, they’re not the candidates for the turtle you saw. Beartown Lakes also hosts the much-smaller Painted Turtle and Eastern Musk Turtle (both of which are smaller than a dinner plate).

    Other locations in Geauga County have also turned up the odd Northern Map Turtle and the occasional Northern Spiny Softshell Turtle.  (The Northern Spiny Softshell Turtle is smaller than a typical Snapping Turtle, but it does have a distinctly long neck.  As far as I know, the only Geauga County location where a Softshell Turtle has been reported is the LaDue Reservoir.)

    Have a look at the terrific “Reptiles Of Ohio Field Guide” from the Ohio Division of Wildlife, and see if you can spot your turtle.

    Have fun!

    -Naturalist Chris Mentrek

  • Was a fire intentionally set at Frohring Meadows?

    Question

    My kids and I were wondering why it looks like Frohring Meadows had a fire intentionally set. Is that something the park does annually to prevent overgrowth?

    Naturalist's Response

    Thank you for asking. Yes, a prescribed fire was conducted at Frohring Meadows on March 23. This habitat management technique keeps this meadow in an early successional state, removing woody vegetation (trees, shrubs, invasives) that are trying to establish. Geauga Park District burns sections of the meadow each year on a rotation. And don’t worry, the sites will be very lush and green within a few short weeks.

    -Land Steward Joel Firem

  • ID on the egg masses at Observatory Park?

    Question

    I saw a large mass (6 to 8 inches diameter) of amphibian eggs in the pond at Observatory park yesterday (3-24-21). Way too big for wood frogs which are croaking right now. What else could it be at this early date?

    Naturalist's Response

    Dagnabbit, I was in the same park on the same day, but was stuck indoors. Good job spotting those!

    You’re right that we’ve only started to hear Wood Frog and Spring Peeper mating calls this week; it’s likely far too soon for them to have created large egg masses.

    Similarly, the Gray Treefrogs, American Toads and Leopard Frogs haven’t made a peep yet at Observatory Park, so it’s even more unlikely to be their work.

    Just based on the timing, my top two suspects are Jefferson’s Salamanders and Spotted Salamanders. They started moving into the pools during the February warm snap, and their offspring might have developed into egg masses by now.

    In the meantime, take a look at this outstanding guide to identifying egg masses in the northern United States from the nice folks at the Orianne Society. (They’re in New England, but the guide features many of the same amphibians we have in our spring pools.) See if any of those look familiar!

    Thanks for your question.

    -Naturalist Chris Mentrek

  • What happens when a third-order stream connects with a second-order stream?

    Question

    what happens if a third-order stream and second-order stream connect? im asking for frank. hes being very annoying about the whole situation.

    Naturalist's Response

    Converging streams

    Hah! I’m always happy to “muddy the waters” of a disagreement. (See what I did there?)

    Unlike the simple rules of the Thunderdome (“Two men enter, one man leaves!”), there’s no single rule for labeling streams.

    Everybody agrees that a stream with NO tributaries is a “first-order stream.” And most people agree that when two first-order streams merge, they deserve to be called a “second-order stream.”

    That’s about where the agreement stops.

    There are two different methods whipped up in the 1950s and 1960s that are still in use today for ordering streams:

    The Strahler Method: Developed by Arthur Strahler, this method says that stream order only increases when two streams of the same order merge. If a lesser stream joins a greater stream, then the stream order doesn’t change. (For example, two second-order streams merge to make a third-order stream; but if a second-order stream joins a third-order stream, it remains a third-order stream.)

    Strahler method

    The Shreve Method: Developed by Ronald Shreve, this method takes the approach of adding the order numbers of any streams that merge. Every time there’s a merger, the order number changes. (For example, if a second-order stream joined a third-order stream, the result would be a fifth-order stream.)

    Shreve method

    There’s no single, correct method. Lots of hydrology planners prefer the Shreve method; it seems to be the more popular method as of 2021.

    However, the Shreve method has the advantage of telling you how many upstream channels there are at a glance; some watershed-based maps prefer this method.

    Regardless, the folks in the GIS and mapping industry are ready to switch between methods when necessary. For example, the ESRI company has a switch to let you choose which method to use for your map.

    (The streams, presumably, don’t care what humans label them; they just flow.)

    -Naturalist Chris Mentrek

  • Help ID this backyard rock

    Question

    What is this? Part of it looks like steel, my sister and me found them in our backyard underground while we were digging. -Ali, age 7

    Naturalist's Response

    Specific gravity demonstration

    Hi, Ali And Crew:

    Thanks for your post!

    Your mystery rock does LOOK like it has the rusty color of steel. That’s a good sign that it includes iron oxide, or iron that’s reacted with the air to turn brown.

    Your mystery rock also seems to have lots of tiny holes in it, and a general “popcorn” shape.

    Based on those two clues, my best guess is that you might have found a piece of slag. Slag is made of the leftovers when people melt iron ore and other rocks in furnaces to make useful metals like steel and cast iron. It involves bubbling air passing through the molten rock; when the rock cools and hardens again, the bubble tracks leave the lots of little holes and passageways.

    Another possible source for your mystery rocks could be bog iron, a naturally occurring form of iron that sometimes lends a rusty color to spring water. In the 1800’s, people would collect it for use by blacksmith shops, who’d smelt it into useful iron objects.

    Your mystery rock might have come from an old-timey blacksmith, or from an Ohio steel mill. Builders would often collect the tough slag rocks and use them to fill in holes at construction sites, railroad beds and roadways.

    If you want to investigate your rock further, try these next steps:

    • Magnet Test: See whether or not a strong magnet will stick to your rock. That’s a sure sign that it contains a lot of iron!
    • Streak Test: Find yourself an old (or unused) ceramic tile, and rub your mystery rock against the unglazed side. (That’s the side that isn’t brightly-colored, and feels rough like sandpaper.) If your rock leaves a colorful mark behind, that “streak” can be a helpful clue to identifying it.
    • Density Test: This one’s trickier! If you have access to a kitchen scale, you can measure your rock’s “specific gravity.” It’s a measure of how much matter is crammed into your rock’s size, or volume. Specific gravity can also be a helpful clue to your rock’s identity! There are plenty of great instructional videos online showing exactly how to measure a rock’s specific gravity; my personal favorite is this helpful one from Clay “Dr. Dirt” Robinson.

    Best of luck, and let us know what you find!

    -Naturalist Chris Mentrek

  • What are the guidelines for adding photos to Ask a Naturalist?

    Question

    I am having difficulty dropping picture files to this site. What are the qualifications and limits to add photos to Ask a Naturalist?

    Naturalist's Response

    I would recommend keeping files/photos under 3MB, if possible. Smaller the better, but I think the site allows up to 6MB.

    They should also consist of JPEG, PNG or PDF files, if possible.

    That should do it. If you’re still getting an error after those recommendations, please email a screenshot of your error to sward@geaugaparkdistrict.org and she will send it to me for investigation.

    -Nathan Winne, Chief Operating Officer at Company 119, Website Developer

  • “Wondering for my guinea pig”

    Question

    Does the Geauga Park district use pesticides on the grass? Wondering for my guinea pig.

    Naturalist's Response

    No, we do not use pesticides on the turf areas in the park. Good question!

    -Director of Planning & Operations Matt McCue

  • What to do about poison ivy?

    Question

    A large willow tree in our yard was damaged by a wind/snow storm and was taken down. We stopped removal when we found large areas of poison ivy. What is the best nontoxic removal of poison ivy on a large area?

    Naturalist's Response

    Poison ivy leaf

    Oooh, this is a tricky one:

    It’s very difficult to eradicate a thriving growth of poison ivy, and it’s even harder to do so without feeling the plant’s itchy effects!

    Protecting Yourself From Itching:

    You will have to wear gloves and thoroughly wash up, as well as thoroughly wash any tools and clothing that you wore while working with the poison ivy in your yard. The oil from the plant, which is what causes the rash, can be spread from the tools onto your skin, and can remain on the tools until it is washed off.

    There are specific products that you can use to wash yourself both before and after to help prevent the rash, should you wish to research those online.

    Removing The Plants:

    Poison ivy, Toxicodendron radicans, is a hardy plant, but it can be killed with most systemic herbicides.

    Most commercially produced herbicides that target poison ivy are based on the chemicals glyphosate, 2,4-D, or triclopyr.  (I’ve included links for each to the handy reference sheets from the National Pesticide Information Center.)

    There are alternatives that offer less risk of harm to yourself and the environment, but which still kill plants:

    • Horticultural vinegar:  Vinegar (acetic acid) works well as a plant-killing spray.  Household vinegar is typically diluted to 5% acidity, but you can find ‘horticultural vinegar’ with a strength of 30% acidity at lots of hardware and garden stores.  Adding some dish soap (about 1 ounce per gallon of vinegar) as a surfactant will boost its efficacy.  There are also commercially-produced, vinegar-based weed killers with the soap already mixed in; again, check your neighborhood store.
    • Citric acid:  Similarly to vinegar, citric acid is a food-safe ingredient that’s been incorporated into several commercially-produced weed killers.  (It’s often combined with clove oil for an extra punch.  Bonus: it makes your garden smell like a spice rack!)  Try a web search for “citric acid weed killer” and you’ll see plenty of examples.  I’ve found that more and more Ohio stores are carrying these products nowadays in an effort to carry a ‘more-natural’ inventory.
    • Boiling water:  Some gardeners swear by using boiling water to kill poison ivy plants at the root.  Just be sure to use all the safety measures you’d use in the kitchen; nobody wants to stand in a cloud of poison-ivy-infused steam!

    Unfortunately, it usually takes a lot of work to conquer an established patch of poison ivy. Whether you pull, dig, cut or spray, it will likely take several rounds before you knock out your opponent. (That’s why we think poison ivy would make a great mascot for toughness and resilience!)

    Best of luck!

    -Naturalists Denise Wolfe & Chris Mentrek

  • What insect creates huge, itchy welts in early May?

    Question

    What insect bites now (early May) in the woods during the day, causing huge welts & itching?

    Naturalist's Response

    Mosquitoes and black flies.

    -Naturalist Denise Wolfe