BY SHERI TRUSTY
Reid Van Cleve is Ottawa County’s State Wildlife Officer, but a better title might be Wildlife Detective.
Van Cleve spends part of his on-duty time in plain clothes, with scope in hand, trying to spot people whose actions are harming Ohio’s natural resources. Whether he is catching people who are overfishing their bag limit or dumping their trash along Lake Erie’s shore, Van Cleve is intent on protecting the wild side of Ohio.
Van Cleve, who is with the Ohio Division of Wildlife, was the guest speaker at the June meeting of Community Crime Watch, a monthly meeting of Bay Township neighbors who gather at the Bay Township Hall on the first Thursday of every month to catch up over a meal, discuss common community problems, and listen to a presentation by a guest speaker. The events are hosted by Bay Township resident Mel McCord.
At last week’s meeting, Van Cleve talked about his work catching fishing offenders in the act. Sometimes he watches waterways, and sometimes he watches cleaning stations for anglers who return multiple times in a day.
“I’ll hide in the bushes wearing camouflage clothes and watch the cleaning stations, looking for doublers and triplers. I want to protect our resources,” he said.
It’s not just people who abuse the lake that Van Cleve is looking for. He also works hard to protect land throughout the county by spotting litterers. He catches them the same way he catches fishing offenders – with a spotting scope and a little patience.
“I’ll sit at Dempsey Access or the Old Bay Bridge. Those are the two highest litter spots. Littering is a big thing, especially when we provide garbage cans. It’s a third-degree misdemeanor,” Van Cleve said. “I tell landowners who have a consistent problem that I’ll come out and sit and try to catch the people littering in their yards.”
Van Cleve’s other duties include checking hunting and fishing licenses.
“In the winter, I’ll work the ice, checking licenses and bag limits,” he said.
Van Cleve talked about his efforts attempting to catch the Red Fox kits that enthralled wildlife photographers at Magee Marsh this year. The kits now have mange, and their only hope of survival is capture and rehabilitation at a wildlife center.
Van Cleve answered questions from the crowd about legal options for dealing with nuisance animals like raccoons and coyotes, and he shared the good news that this year’s walleye season is strong. He announced that this year’s Free Fishing Days are Saturday and Sunday, June 17-18.
“Residents of Ohio can fish anywhere in the state without a license on those days,” he said.
Van Cleve, who has 16 years’ experience as a wildlife officer, worked elsewhere in the state before moving to Ottawa County.
“I love my job. I love working for the state,” he said. “Ottawa County is probably the busiest county, and I love it like that.”
The public is invited to the next Community Crime Watch meeting on Thursday, July 6 at the Bay Township Hall at 4471 W Fremont Rd., Port Clinton. Food and refreshments are available at 6 p.m., and the program starts at 7 p.m.