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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  • What kind of spider is this?

    Question

    Can you please provide an ID on this spider, taken outside of its apparent burrow? Do you think that the burrow was spider-excavated, or a hole not of its own making? Thanks.

    Naturalist's Response

    This is an awesome picture of a Field Wolf Spider (Tigrosa helluo). It is pretty common, and often found in buildings including houses. These are important predators. Here is some interesting information on these cool creatures from the Ohio Division of Natural Resources Common Spiders of Ohio Field Guide:

    • Because of their large size, field wolf spiders inspire considerable fear when discovered indoors. This fear is not justified, as they rarely bite, and only if provoked. Their bite is not considered dangerous.
    • The very narrow pale yellow line up the center of the dark brown carapace, continuing between the eyes, is distinctive of the field wolf spider.
    • Field wolf spiders may retreat into cracks in the soil or build shallow burrows.
    • More information on this and other spiders found in Ohio can be found here.

     

    -Nora Sindelar, Naturalist

  • A question about the lights

    Question

    More of a design q, but here it goes! Why do the shelters that keep lights on into the night not use red lights to help bats and other night active creatures like migrating birds? Seems like an easy switch over! (Photo is of new shelter at Frohring Meadows shelter with lights on after 8 p.m., taken with a cell phone.)

    Just curious!

    Naturalist's Response

    This according to our Planning Department: The lights at Frohring Meadows are full cut-off lights and under a roof. Their purpose is to allow rangers to see if people are up around the shelters after hours or in the morning (more for safety and security). Thank you for asking!

    -Sandy Ward, Marketing Coordinator

  • How many acres?

    Question

    How many acres are included in all Geauga Parks?

    Naturalist's Response

    Good question, and the answer is: Geauga Park District manages more than 10,500 acres in 25 open parks and preserves.

    -Sandy Ward, Marketing Coordinator

  • Help with a spider ID?

    Question

    I have a question. We recently moved into an apartment building in June, no sign of spiders at all. Now that is not to say I didn't bring one to our new home. However, I had noticed two of the same kind of spiders coming out from my built in dishwasher. They are brown/amber in color and they look like they have amber see through legs. I found another one by our garbage can in the kitchen and just found another one as I was sitting here this morning. I will try to capture one or at least photograph it. I also have a newborn and a 3 year old and I don't want them getting bit. Do you or can you identify this spider. I want to deter them not kill them to keep my family safe. I also am looking into natural eo but have to make sure they are safe for newborns and children to be around. I do have a trusted certified aroma therapist.

    Naturalist's Response

    A photo would be the best way for us to identify any spider that you have.

    The Ohio Division of Wildlife also has a publication of common spiders from Ohio which can be found here. You can look for the spider in there, but I would also encourage you to send us a picture so we can help you with the identification.

    -Naturalist Denise Wolfe

  • Frohring field flower ID?

    Question

    What are the tall multi-headed yellow flowers at Frohring Field and where can I get seeds?

    Naturalist's Response

    There are several types of sunflowers out there, as well as prairie dock and cup flower, so I’m not sure which one you are referring to. Many of these plants can be purchased from nurseries that sell native plants, and there are some nurseries that even specialize in prairie plants.  Please check on the internet to find these businesses. -Naturalist Denise Wolfe

  • “Bugs on maple tree trunk”

    Question

    What are these bugs on my maple tree? Are they harmful to the tree? Do they bite? Thank you.

    Naturalist's Response

    What I would do without BugGuide.net!!?  I couldn’t really see the insects in the picture very well, so in BugGuide’s search box, I typed “bugs on maple tree trunk.” And what popped up? A picture of insects that looked exactly like yours.  They are bark lice.  They do not bite nor do they harm the tree.  Click here for the BugGuide link with more information.

    Thanks so much for sending a picture.  I learned something, too, this time!

    -Linda Gilbert, Naturalist

  • Why did this tree grow this way?

    Question

    What would cause this kind of odd tree growth along the Old Ironsides Trail in Holbrook Hollows?

    Naturalist's Response

    I have read in the past that it is caused by an injury to the tree when it was younger and something like another larger tree that’s no longer there could have been growing next to it and forced it to develop that way. -Naturalist Denise Wolfe

    I would agree with what Denise said. There might also have been a larger tree that fell on this tree as a sapling and forced it to grow this way. -Chief Naturalist John Kolar

    Yep. Goes like this: tree falls across another tree, bending its crown to the ground.  Branch on the bent tree takes over, growing upward for the sun.  Eventually, upper part of bent tree dies away, as does the broken or uprooted tree that fell over it. -Naturalist Dan Best

  • Name this spider

    Question

    Is this one of the nursery web spiders? Very large! Found in Munson Twp.

    Naturalist's Response

    Looking at the image, I can tell this is a fishing spider, most likely Dolomedes Tenebrosus. They may be intimidating to look at because of their impressive size (female 15-26mm, male 7-13mm body length, not including leg measurement), but thankfully these are not considered dangerous to humans.  They can often be seen on man-made structures and tree trunks. As a member of the Pisauridae family, these spiders are pretty interesting, as they display extended care of their young. The females carry the egg sac, holding it with their jaws, then build a type of nursery with a leaf or other cover and stay to guard the spiderlings until they molt and disperse.

    Thank you for sharing that excellent picture! -Naturalist Nora Sindelar

  • Worried about so many snappers

    Question

    I live on Cedar Road, east of The Rookery. I have a snapping turtle on my premises which I believe is a female because she appears to be laying eggs in a pile of landscaping stones. I have no problem with a turtle or two on the property, but I really don't want 2 dozen. Would you be willing to take a look and move the eggs to The Rookery after she leaves?

    Naturalist's Response

    Indeed, this past couple of weeks have been egg-laying time for painted and snapping turtles. Hen turtles have been conducting “eggs-peditions,” sometimes venturing far from their aquatic homes to find a suitable sunny spot to dig their egg pit and deposit their clutches. I appreciate your concern in inquiring about relocating the clutch, but I don’t think this would be a very successful venture. Odds are, raccoons or skunks will dig up and eat the eggs before long. Even if left undisturbed to hatch, I don’t thing all the hatchlings would stay on your property, all piling into your pond. They would disperse to find a pond or wetland to call home, not all in the same area. They would also have to run a gauntlet of predators on their march to the marsh or ponds, even yours, where a host of predators will further thin their numbers.  Best to let Nature take its course. -Naturalist Dan Best

  • Why does this cardinal look this way?

    Question

    I am attaching a picture of a cardinal (??) which has been coming to my bird feeder (I live in Novelty). One zoologist I asked thought it was an ordinary cardinal with a mite problem, causing loss of head feathers. What is your take on it?

    Naturalist's Response

    Most likely, this cardinal is simply going through a molt into new feathers. For some reason, cardinals often molt all of their head feathers at the same time, appearing bald. We have seen dozens of cases like this over the years. -Naturalist Tami Gingrich