MOUNT VERNON — Knox County is home to a variety of wild species. With many rural areas, it is a perfect habitat for many animals to call home. There are a few species you won’t find, however.
Brent Theophilus of Mount Vernon asked the question of “Are rattlesnakes making a comeback in Knox County?” He stated that a friend saw someone he thought to be a ranger in the Bladensburg area introducing rattlesnakes to the area as part of a conservation effort. Knox County Wildlife Officer Mike Miller, when presented with the question, quickly dispelled the notion.
“There is absolutely no truth to this. We don’t really even have a habitat for them,” said Miller. “I did some research a couple of years ago, and found that timber rattlesnakes, except for a very few, were hardly ever documented in Knox County in historical records. Massasauga rattlesnakes were and some copperheads, but in recorded history, Knox County never had a history of them.
“Massasaugas usually live in wet areas — pete bogs, kettle lakes and things like that. There are some down near the Hebron Fish Hatchery and at the Cedar Bog in Springfield, but overall, they are extremely, extremely rare. They are endangered, as are the timber rattlesnakes. As far as the Division of Wildlife releasing rattlesnakes, it is absolutely untrue.”
So Brent, Miller is not sure what your friend saw, but he can be assured this is not a common practice. Miller did say that he often gets presented with someone claiming to have seen a rattlesnake or a copperhead, but after further review, only find out that it is another species.
“Without knowing who they are talking about, it is one of those things that I would have to see a picture of,” said Miller. “It is a spin on the same old rumor that has been going on for 20-plus years. We are not stocking rattlesnakes. Anything is possible, but it is highly unlikely. If someone found a rattlesnake in Knox County, it would most likely be something somebody had that they shouldn’t of. I’ve been in the county 14 years, and every year, I have people show me snakes that they say are rattlesnakes or copperheads. So far, in 14 years, no one has shown me a poisonous snake that was found in the county.”
Since rattlesnakes are an endangered species in Ohio, the Department of Natural Resources is working to conserve the existing populations.
“We are doing habitat studies and population studies where we know there are populations of them in Southern Ohio, and what we’ve found is reptiles and amphibians are very specific with their habitat needs,” said Miller.
Have a question you would like answered, write to Going Wild with Mike Miller c/o Mount Vernon News at email@example.com or by mail at P.O. Box 791, Mount Vernon, OH 43050.
FISHING OFF TO A STRONG START: With the warmer temperatures, fish in Knox County’s rivers, lakes and streams are becoming more active. The Division of Wildlife has also began to stock lakes around the state, which increase your chances of landing a big one.
“Fishing is really picking up,” Miller said. “The trout stockings around the state have started. Mount Gilead was stocked (Thursday) with probably 1,500 rainbow trout. The bag limit is five, and you need to have a fishing license. ... Good fishing will last about three days. I would say through this weekend would be the best time to go.
“They have been catching some crappies at Knox Lake, a few smallmouth bass in the Kokosing River and over at Alum Creek, they’ve been doing well on crappies. They are catching saugeye below the dam at Hoover Reservoir and at Deer Creek Lake. I would also imagine they are catching them at Pleasant Hill this time of year. ... I haven’t talked with anyone at Foundation Park, but I would imagine you would be able to catch some crappies, especially on these warmer days.”
While you can fish anytime, there are two dates to mark your calendars for locally.
“The first Saturday in May (May 2) is going to be the Knox County Fish and Game Club’s Kids Fishing Derby at Foundation Park,” said Miller. “Then, the Mount Vernon Rotary Club is holding the annual Rotary Regatta on June 13 at Foundation Park. They will have canoeing and kids fishing that day. The Division of Wildlife’s free fishing license weekend will also be held on May 2 and 3. You don’t need a fishing license that weekend, but I still recommend you look over the fishing regulations to understand the bag limits. Everything is still in effect.”
YOUTH CAN EXPLORE THE OUTDOORS: The Knox County Chapter of Pheasants Forever is sponsoring an Outdoor Skills for Youth Day on Saturday, April 18, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Campbell Farm in Howard. Park district staff will assist young anglers at the kiddie fishing pond. The 4-H shooting sports instructors, Soil and Water Conservation District staff and others will lead activities to develop outdoor skills in kids while exploring nature. This event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is requested.
“It is an all-day activity,” Miller said. “There will be fishing, repelling, target shooting, archery, all kinds of things.”
To pre-register or find out more, contact the Knox County Extension Office at 397-0401, or Miller at (614) 644-3925.