Ask a Naturalist

Understand the world around you We've got answers

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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  • Parks and protected wetlands?

    Question

    How big is the Geauga park system? I see there are 22 parks total. How many acres is that? How much of the parks are wetlands?

    Naturalist's Response

    As of this year, Geauga Park District now consists of 25 parks and 10,682 acres, and 30% to 40% of those are protected wetlands.

    -Park Biologist Paul Pira

  • Origin of Headwaters’ hemlock trees?

    Question

    Are the Eastern Hemlock trees at Headwaters Park natural there, or were they planted by someone?

    Naturalist's Response

    The Eastern hemlock tree is native to our area, and those at Headwaters Park are naturally occurring and not planted by people.

    -Naturalist Denise Wolfe

     

  • Whose scat is that?

    Question

    How are you with scat identification?

    Naturalist's Response

    Sorry for the delay in response! It is hard to say with 100% certainty but my thought is that this is raccoon scat. The only other possibility could be Black Bear, although they are a state endangered species and not common in Ohio. Typically we do see a few young wandering male Black Bears in our county during the summer months, so it is possible that this is bear scat.

    If you are able to recall the size of the scat, that could also help with identification. Both raccoons and Black Bears feast on berries during the summer, and it’s obvious that this scat is full of blueberries.

    If you have any additional photos or information about this, I’d be happy to look into this further.

    -Chief Naturalist John Kolar

  • Where can I walk in the water?

    Question

    Is there someplace in the Geauga parks were you can go on a river or creek walk?

    Naturalist's Response

    A stream or creek walk is possible in almost all of Geauga County. Especially inviting for such outings are many Geauga Park District locations. Small, headwaters streams, the origin of four Ohio river systems (Chagrin, Cuyahoga, Grand and Mahoning), have crayfish, salamanders, small fish and invertebrates living in their rocky waters and are easy to explore because they are shallow. They flow into deeper and wider creeks such as Big Creek, Swine Creek and Silver Creek (The West Woods), with deeper pools that may be knee deep on a creek walk. River access is best done by canoe or kayak in the Cuyahoga from Eldon Russell Park. Please also watch our program listings for naturalist-led stream hikes and paddles on the Cuyahoga during the warmer months of spring and summer!

    -Naturalist Dottie Drockton

  • A Great Blue Heron seen in wintertime

    Question

    Why would I see a Blue Heron in Geauga County in the last 2 weeks? I have never seen them this time of year.

    Naturalist's Response

    As long as the winter here in Northeast Ohio continues to have periods of mild weather, the chance of seeing a Great Blue Heron is pretty good. Herons only migrate as far south as they need to in order to find open water in which to fish. During very cold, wintery periods, they will fly south, then travel north again as things here warm and thaw.

    -Naturalist Tami Gingrich

  • What is this vulture doing?

    Question

    What is this, the Angel of Death? What is this vulture doing?

    Naturalist's Response

    Indeed, this makes for a curious sight. Turkey vultures can be seen striking this pose in the morning sun. This is called the “horaltic pose.” While they may appear to be doing their pre-flight stretching exercises, they are actually warming themselves up for a day on the wing. Dark colors absorb sunlight and generate heat. Touch a dark-colored vehicle on a sunny day to feel for yourself. By spreading their dark-colored wings with backs to the sun, vultures increase their heating surface and thus warm themselves faster.

    Thanks to Ed Tornberg for his photograph of a turkey vulture “horalticking” atop a bluebird box.

    -Naturalist Dan Best

  • Light pollution from where?

    Question

    (Submitted to Geauga Park District and Lake Metroparks) February 9, 2019, was mostly clear and I was able to take some star shots at Lake Metroparks' Lake Erie Bluffs. Here's one around 10:14 PM looking west. Sunset was hours earlier and left of this position. Question: is what appears to be a sunset the glow of Detroit? Do birds see this and not the darkling dullness we see? The pink to the left is from Painesville; the pale glow to the right of that is from the setting crescent moon behind the trees.

    Naturalist's Response

    Checked with our naturalists and they agreed it does look like a sunset, but due to the time of day, it is most likely the light given off by either Mentor or Cleveland.

    -John Venen, Promotions & Advertising Manager, Lake Metroparks

  • What is this beetle in my house?

    Question

    I found this beetle in my house last night. As you can see in the photo, it is not quite a centimeter long. I would appreciate any help in trying to identify it from among the gazillion beetles out there.

    Naturalist's Response

    Thanks for sending pictures of your critter.  It is not a beetle, but rather one of the stinkbug species. The photos get fuzzy when I tried to enlarge them, but I’m fairly certain that this is a Brown Marmorated Stinkbug nymph (an immature individual).

    The Brown Marmorated Stinkbug is an invasive species from Asia that has been invading people’s houses. They are more commonly found inside people’s houses when the weather turns cooler in the fall since they need a place to overwinter. It would make sense then, in July, that this one was not fully mature yet.

    While supposedly harmless to humans, they can wreak havoc on fruit trees and other plants. They have piercing, sucking mouthparts and feed on plant and fruit juices. If you’ve ever peeled an apple and noticed a bunch of brown spots on the flesh underneath, it’s probably the work of this particular stinkbug.

    Here is a link to a nymph photo, and here is an amusing link to a blog post about this particular critter by one of Ohio’s premier naturalists, Jim McCormac.

    -Naturalist Linda Gilbert

  • Imperial Moth caterpillar found

    Question

    I rescued an Imperial Moth caterpillar today from a water hole on my property! I'm debating on trying to raise it till it turns to a moth but reading more into it they take a very long time to become a moth. I have a seven year old and a three year old that are extremely interested in it. So I was wondering if there was somewhere the park would take it and maybe put on display or anything like that. Any info or help would be great. Thank you.

    Naturalist's Response

    I’m sorry this message got overlooked. Imperial Moths are pretty uncommon here in Geauga County. They require 6-8 weeks to mature and then dig beneath the soil and form a pupae for the winter. They do not emerge from underground into an adult moth until the following July! Their complete life cycle takes almost a year. If you find an interesting caterpillar in the future, please feel free to bring it in. We would love to photograph and document it. On August 18, 2019, we will be having our big Caterpillar Extravaganza event. Plus, if you find a caterpillar around that time and bring it to the program, you will get a prize!

    -Naturalist Tami Gingrich

  • Strawberry red frog discovered

    Question

    We came across this strawberry red frog as we were cleaning up brush. Never seen one before like this. I live in Chardon. I assume that it is poison.

    Naturalist's Response

    Hmmm… it’s always tricky to identify a creature from a written description, but here are my top two suspects:

    • Wood Frogs (Rana sylvatica) come in an astonishing range of colors that let them blend in with dead leaves on the forest floor. Usually, that’s tan or brown, but some Wood Frogs are closer to the “strawberry red” color you’ve described.  Take a look at these photos published by CWRU ‘s Michael Benard showing the color variations in Wood Frogs.
    • Spring Peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) can also have an unusually-reddish color.  This collection of photos of Northeast Ohio amphibians posted to the Field Herp Forum shows a great example of a red Spring Peeper.

    Luckily, none of our local frogs pose a threat to humans.

    If neither of those two local frogs fits the bill, then I’m stumped.  There’s also the possibility that someone’s exotic pet frog managed to escape.  Let us know if you think you found a match for your mystery crimson frog!

    – Naturalist Chris Mentrek