Deer and COVID-19 – What is Going On?

Hello Wild Side Readers,

Have you seen headlines in the news lately about deer with COVID-19? Some of these headlines are a bit misleading. Check out the below information on what is really going on.


SARS-CoV-2 and Deer

In a late August press release, the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory announced confirmation of the virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) in wild wild-tailed deer in Ohio. Earlier studies have shown that deer can be experimentally infected with the virus, and that wild deer (from samples in IL, MI, NY, and PA) had antibodies to the virus.

  • The deer tested were positive for the virus (SARS-CoV-2) but were not diagnosed with the illness (COVID-19). Some headlines you may see (including the above press release) are misleading! Currently, it appears that deer are asymptomatic carriers of the virus.
  • According to the Ohio Department of Health, there is no evidence that animals, including deer, play a significant role in the spread of SARS-CoV-2 to people.
    • Based on the available information, the risk of animals spreading SARS-CoV-2 to people is low.
  • Currently, it is unknown how the deer contracted the virus, though typically the route of infection is from human to animals.
    • Infections have been reported in a small number of other wildlife species, mostly in animals that had close contact with a person with COVID-19. More info here.

Is hunter-harvested game meat safe to eat?

  • According to the Ohio Department of Health, there is no evidence that people can get SARS-CoV-2 by preparing or eating meat from an animal infected with SARS-CoV-2, including wild game meat hunted in the United States.
  • Hunters should always practice good hygiene when processing animals.

Additional actions to stop virus transmission:

  • To limit deer-to-deer transmission, the Ohio Division of Wildlife continues to urge homeowners and hunters to avoid concentrating deer at backyard feeders or in hunting situations. In addition to SARS-CoV-2, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and bovine tuberculosis (bTB) remain on the list of diseases that could be easily transmitted from deer to deer under these situations. CWD was confirmed in two wild deer in Wyandot County during the 2020-21 deer hunting season (see here for more information on CWD in Ohio’s deer herd). Ohio’s herd remains bTB-free.

More information:

  • Contact the Ohio Department of Health for questions about the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from white-tailed deer to humans; 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634) or
  • Contact the Ohio Department of Agriculture for questions about the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to pets or livestock; 614-728-6201 or
  • Press release on Deer with Antibodies to SARS-CoV-2
  • FAQ on Deer with Antibodies Study – also has food safety recs for hunters processing animals


Thanks for reading!

Marne Titchenell

Wildlife Program Specialist

Update – Bird Illness and Feeding Recommendations

Hello Wild Side Readers,

Good news on the bird illness front – check it out below!

The Ohio Division of Wildlife is lifting its previous recommendation to stop feeding birds. However, caution and vigilance are always necessary to help prevent further spread of diseases at bird feeders.

  • Reports of sick or dead birds possibly affected with the mysterious bird illness in Ohio have slowed considerably. A majority of birds reported with the illness were immature or fledgling birds, and the breeding season is now primarily over.
  • There is still no diagnosis on the cause of the mysterious bird illness. Research is ongoing at multiple labs.
  • Many other songbird diseases can be passed through feeding. It is important to keep feeders clean: use a 10% bleach solution (1 part bleach, 9 parts water), rinse, and let dry at least once a week. Take a break (7-10 days) from feeding if you see sick or dead birds. This prevents birds from congregating and passing transmissible diseases.
  • Symptoms of diseases such as house finch eye disease and salmonellosis include reddish or crusty eyes, and neurological conditions such as poor balance and coordination.

The Division of Wildlife would still like reports of dead birds to be reported HERE.

If you find or observe a sick bird, please contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.


Thanks for all you do for wildlife!

Marne Titchenell

Wildlife Program Specialist

Update: Mysterious Bird Illness Strikes Ohio

Hello Wild Side Readers,

I wanted to share a small update on the illness impacting birds in Ohio and surrounding states.

  • There is still no cause of illness or death.
  • People are encouraged to report sick or dead birds.
  • The following pathogens have NOT been detected, based on results received to date: Salmonella and Chlamydia (bacterial pathogens); avian influenza virus, West Nile virus and other flaviviruses, Newcastle disease virus and other paramyxoviruses, herpesviruses and poxviruses; and Trichomonas parasites.
  • No human health of domestic livestock and poultry issues have been reported.
  • The recommendation remains to take down feeders and baths until this illness subsides.
    • WHY? Bird feeders and baths are places where birds congregate and possibly transmit disease to one another. Taking down feeders and baths prevents these gatherings and the risk of disease transmission.
  •  Recommendation to keep pets (including pet birds) away from sick or dead birds (as a standard precaution).

Please see the below handout for more information. While the bulk of the reports are coming in from SW and Central Ohio, other parts of the state are not immune. Please remain vigilant and report any cases you see – thank you!!










Additional Resources:

Update from the USGS National Wildlife Health Center

ODNR-Division of Wildlife’s Page on the bird illness


Marne Titchenell

Wildlife Program Specialist

Mysterious Bird Illness Strikes Ohio

Hello Wild Side Readers!

Have you seen or heard about an illness in Ohio affecting songbirds? If so, the attached handout has some information on the mysterious disease. At this time, biologists are unclear as to what is causing birds to get sick, but diagnostic laboratories, including the National Wildlife Health Center, are on the case. Check out the below publication for more information and what you can do to help.

In addition, the Ohio Division of Wildlife has created a new webpage for sharing updates and easy access to their reporting websites.











What is Going on with the Birds? Mysterious Illness Affecting Ohio Birds


Marne Titchenell

Wildlife Program Specialist

Burrr it’s cold…How do animals survive winter?

Hello Wild Side Readers,

For many, winter is a time for huddling in warm blankets and sweaters, and dreaming of warmer weather. Of all the seasons, I hear the most complaints about winter. It makes me wonder, without being overly anthropomorphic, if wildlife species share the same dour attitudes towards Old Man Winter. Or is winter to them just another time of the year that requires certain strategies to be successful?

For some species, winter can indeed be challenging. Fortunately, wildlife have many adaptations that help them survive winter. In the below presentation, I discuss a few. From down jackets to frozen frogs, the abilities Ohio wildlife employ during the cold winter months are nothing short of impressive!

Winter Wildlife Adaptations recorded presentation

During the presentation, I shared several resources to learn more about winter wildlife adaptations:

The Great Migration video – Sandhill crane stopover at Audubon Nebraska’s Rowe Sanctuary

Birdcast – migration maps and live tracking of migration

Migration Science article – from Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website

White-nose Syndrome website – U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Webinar on Creating a Living Landscape for Wildlife in Your Backyard 

Nest Box Plans for Wildlife – ODNR, Division of Wildlife

Recommended Books:

  • Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner – for the kiddos
  • Life in the Cold by Peter J. Marchand
  • Winter World by Bernd Heinrich

Enjoy and stay warm out there! Spring is just a month (or so) away!

Marne Titchenell

Wildlife Program Specialist



Ssssssnakes and Other Ohio Reptiles

Hello Wild Side Readers!

I had the pleasure of putting together a reptiles of Ohio presentation for the State Master Gardener Volunteer Conference. The presentation got me thinking that I also needed to do a blog article sharing some resources on these critters, as I frequently get ID questions on them. Below are some of my go-to resources when it comes to Reptile ID (I know there are others out there, so let me know in the comments of others I should add to my list).

Reptile ID resources:

If you want to learn more:

  • Check out this presentation by Brian Hackett, Wildlife Specialist with the Knox County Soil & Water Conservation District. I’ve learned so much watching Brian’s presentations.
    • Ohio Snake Identification
    • This presentation was made the 2020 Farm Science Review Online. Visit here a full list of wildlife related talks from this year’s FSR.


Marne Titchenell

Wildlife Program Specialist

Owls of Ohio

Hello Wild Side Readers!

If you caught my last post, you’ll know that this year’s Farm Science Review is virtual and all educational materials and presentations will be available starting next week. Check out my last post for more info and the schedule of Gwynne Conservation Area Presentations.

One of the Gwynne presentations is called Owls of Ohio. In the video I created, I promised to provide additional resources for attracting owls to your property. Below is a list of additional resources on owls. Enjoy!

OSU Extension Fact Sheet – Dead Trees for Wildlife

NC State Extension Working with Wildlife – Owls

Ohio Division of Wildlife Owls of Ohio Field Guide

Ohio Division of Wildlife Attracting Birds of Ohio – nest box plans for screech owl

Barn Owl Population Status Report

Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds – more info about each owl species


Marne Titchenell

Wildlife Program Specialist

In Ohio, short-eared owls can be seen during winter hunting over open fields and grasslands.

2020 Gwynne Conservation Area Farm Science Review Presentations

Hello Wild Side Readers!

Next week is Farm Science Review (FSR), one of the largest farm shows in the country, hosted by the Ohio State University and the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Monday through Thursday usually finds me at the show on the Gwynne Conservation Area, which is down the road from the Molly Caren Agricultural Center, the site of FSR.

Among many activities, the Gwynne typically hosts a series of professionals talks geared towards farmers, woodland owners, and other landowners about conservation and natural resources management. This year, FSR is virtual, and so all 45 talks planned for 2020 at the Gwynne are now moving to an online platform!

Check out the full schedule of talks here.

I’ve also added a short tutorial below on how to watch the talks from your computer or other device, starting Sept. 22, 2020. Please reach out to me in the comments below if you have any questions. I hope you enjoy the show!

How to access Gwynne Conservation Area talks during 2020 FSR:

  1.  Go to and click on ‘Conservation
  2.  Create a ‘My Show Planner’ Account (don’t skip this step!)
  3.  Click on ‘Home’ and search for keyword ‘Gwynne
  4.  A list of the Gwynne subject matter areas should appear (i.e. ‘Gwynne Forages and Grazing Education‘, ‘Gwynne Woodland Educations’, etc.). Click on each subject matter to get to the list of scheduled talks.
    • You can add the scheduled talks to your ‘My Show Planner’ in order to easily find the talks you want to watch the next time that you sign in. Talks can be added to your ‘My Show Planner‘ now!
  5.  Under each scheduled talk, there will be a link. Click on the link to watch a video of the talk. For the ‘live sessions’ the link will take you to a zoom meeting room.

For more information on FSR 2020 and how to navigate the vitual show site, visit the links below:

Farm Science Review 2020 – Free and Online

Full Schedule of ALL the talks going on during FSR 2020

Navigating the FSR virtual show site


Marne Titchenell

Wildlife Program Specialist

A bit about Ohio’s carnivores…

Hello Wild Side Readers!

Bobcats and coyotes and bears, oh my! In my years of educating, I’ve found that people have a fascination with Ohio’s wild carnivores. I can count myself as one that shares in the fascination. When I teach Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalists in-training about mammals, we spend at least an hour on the order Carnivora. In Ohio, there are 6 families in the order Carnivora;  from the cats (Felidae) to the dogs (Canidea) to the bears (Ursidae). Below is a link to a presentation on Ohio’s carnivores. I recently gave the program as part of the Mahoning County Extension and Mill Creek Metroparks Naturalist Series. I’ve also included a few links where you can learn more about Ohio’s carnivores.

Presentation: A Wildlife Sampler: Foxes, Minks, and Otters, Oh My!

Additional Resources:


Marne Titchenell

Wildlife Program Specialist

(Psssst…do you know all 6 families within the Order Carnivora? I listed 3 above. The other 3 are Mustelidae (otters, weasels, and more), Mephitidae (skunk), and Procyonidae (raccoon).)

Birding by Ear Resources

Hello Wild Side Readers!

Have you been paying more attention to the wildlife around your home? Perhaps you’ve noticed quite a few different species of birds flitting about your landscape. A fun challenge is to start identifying those birds by their songs. This is called birding by ear. Birding by ear is an acquired skill and can be overwhelming when you are just starting out, which is why beginning with the familiar yard birds is a good first step. Below I’m listed a few tips to help you get started. I’ve also compiled a list of resources where you can learn more. Happy birding!

1) Pick a Short List of Birds

If you are just starting out learning bird song, pick a short list (10 or so) of birds you are already able to identify by sight. The birds you regularly see around your yard may be the list you choose to start with.

2) Listen to Recordings

To begin learning your bird calls, obtain a CD of Common Bird Calls of Ohio from the Ohio Division of Wildlife. This CD corresponds with their field guide, Common Birds of Ohio. Call your Division of Wildlife District Office to request a CD. (If you know of other free CD of bird songs, let me know in the comments below and I’ll post them here, too.)

You can also listen to bird calls at the below sites, but be careful – these sites list all of the songs and calls of each species (many birds have multiple songs and calls). Usually, the first 1-2 songs listed are the most common. Stick to only a few of the most common songs for each species when you are first learning.

3) Take Time to Really Listen AND Watch

Once you have learned your short list of bird songs, it’s time to test your newly acquired skills! Venture out into your backyard or where ever best to locate the birds on your list. Take plenty of time to really listen (that might mean closing your eyes, listening, and locating where the bird is calling from so you can easily find the bird in your binoculars). Once you have listened, find the bird and watch it. Maybe you also have time to take a few notes, or sketch the bird. Making those connections between sight and sound will really help to you learn and remember that bird.

What should you listen for?

  • Mnemonics – putting words to a sound can be very helpful when learning bird calls. Here is a list of mnemonics

    The song of the tufted titmouse sounds like, “Peter! Peter! Peter!”

    from Fernbank Science Center, in Atlanta, Georgia. Please note, not all species on this list are present in Ohio.

    • Here is also a cute graphic posted by ODNR, Division of Wildlife, on their Facebook page.
  • Song Details – listen for the sound quality, pitch, and different sections of the call.
      • Sound quality – Is the song buzzy like a bee (warblers), clear as a whistle (cardinal), or composed of trills (when a birds uses a lot of sounds in a row that are too fast to count or whistle, like a screech owl)?
      • Pitch – Is the song rising, falling, steady, or variable in pitch?
      • Sections – A new section is when there is a dramatic change in pitch or speed of the song.
    • The sound quality of a bird’s song can be graphed in something called a sonogram. Sonograms can help birders visualize the song of a bird, and help them identify it.
      • Here is an article that describes song details and sonograms in more detail.  I find it can be very helpful to describe what we are hearing, just as we would describe what a bird looks like (i.e. white wingbar, red eye, yellow chest).

4) Bird with a Friend

It can be incredibly helpful to have a friend to bounce IDs off of, and it’s even better if that friend is an experienced birder from which you can learn even more!

5) Look at Every Bird

Ok, so maybe this one is better suited to birding by sight. This is the best piece of birding advice I ever received (thank you, Paul Knoop)! Even if you have already identified the bird you are seeing or hearing, take some time to look at it. When we look at a bird, we are picking up little things about how the bird is moving or behaving like its shape, size, and silhouette, how it’s flying or moving in a tree. It’s these little things that can help you in the future to identify that bird immediately, to pick it easily out of a crowd, or decipher its call from a dawn chorus during the height of migration.

Addition Resources:

Bird Song: The Song Learning Game for Everyone by Cornell Lab of Ornithology  – watch a short video then start the game!

Anatomy of Bird Song Slide by Cornell Lab of Ornithology – takes you to a neat 4-slide presentation about how birds produce sound.

 The Language of Birds by Cornell Lab of Ornithology – 10 minute video on bird song


Thanks for reading and happy birding!

Marne Titchenell

Wildlife Program Specialist

The mnemonic for the eastern towhee’s call is my favorite. “Drink your teeeea!”