Management work continues despite the high water

Victim swept away from rocks while trying to save young girl.

A lot of time, money and effort spent doing wildlife habitat work is being washed away as the waters of the Mississippi rise and are diverted into the floodway systems. While too much water is a problem for many, the lack of water in the form of rainfall continues to be a problem for others. The plantings I made for deer and turkey in Clinton are up, but the lack of rain has been a problem. They did get some rain the second week of May and first week of June, which was certainly needed.

Those who planted in the Morganza Floodway will not get to see the results of this effort, but hopefully the water will be gone for some mid- to late-summer plantings.

On May 5, I saw the first hatch of turkeys at Camp David, and was pleased to see that the young poults were bugging on a strip that I had clipped the week before in our big food plot. I have been involved with a couple of weekend deer workshops, and have been pointing out to those attending the importance of having areas with enough exposed ground that allow the young turkeys and quail to move around and catch insects. If the grass is too tall and too thick, the young birds simply cannot move around and find food.

I was hoping to connect with a longbeard on Camp David during the season, but with the early opener and the early ending in April, it didn’t happen. I did, while sitting on a deer stand trying to connect with a pig, call up a tom using my mouth on April 29. The bird was gobbling good shortly after daylight, and when another tom joined in I could not resist giving it a try. Now I am not a person who can call with my mouth, but as I have written before, the toms in the late days of April cannot find hens and are really responsive should one call back at them.

After the tom gobbled back at me the third time, I called to it. I shut up and waited, and within 20 minutes, I was looking down at it from the stand. The tom looked up at me, turned around and walked off, then putted and left the patch, and in five minutes was gobbling again.

No doubt the high water spells doom for the turkey nests located in the batture areas along the river and in the floodway. I was on such ground on May 4 watching a hen feeding in a field around 7 p.m. No doubt she had a nest nearby that has now been flooded. Turkeys will re-nest, but success is much less than the first nesting.

The loss of reproduction will mean fewer jakes in 2012 and fewer longbeards in subsequent years. This may impact the decision LDWF makes regarding the 2012 turkey season. Adult turkeys can generally handle flooding, unless they are forced to spend a lot of time in the trees and do not have any high ground to visit. LDWF has trapped some turkeys on Sherburne WMA, has equipped them with GPS units and will be monitoring their status during the flooding.

The situation is different in the Morganza Floodway from what it was in 1973. The bear population has greatly increased since that time, and this may be a real problem for farmers and homeowners as the bears move out and search for new feeding areas. They may find a world of trash cans and dumpsters as well as small gardens and other areas that offer free food.

Deer should have time to move out, and will bide their time waiting for the water to fall out so they can return to their home habitat. Farmers outside the spillway may find they have to deal with deer-depredation issues.

I don’t think LDWF will be doing any deer rescue work. The situation in the 1973 was somewhat political, and I think the biologists may have been forced to do this type of work in response to the politics. The deer in the floodway will not be dropping fawns until August, so the water should be gone by then. However, the does will be under some stress, and there is the potential for some reproduction loss if the does cannot maintain themselves and their developing young.

Likewise, bucks are developing a new set of antlers, and nutritional stress may create problems for desirable antler development. Clubs and landowners may have to adjust their harvest-management program if animals lose a year of good body growth and antler development.

There wasn’t a feral hog population in 1973, and the flooding may present an opportunity to reduce the numbers of these nuisance critters. During intense flooding on Pearl River WMA, I have observed that hogs don’t fare as well as deer during the flooding should they not have enough time to get ahead of the rising water.

We have feral hogs on our Camp David property, and it takes a whole lot of time and effort to try to trap or shoot them. Once the turkey season was over, I started baiting a site on our property and monitored it with a trail camera. Baiting began the week of April 18 and began getting visits by two different boars, mostly at night. During the week of April 25, a pair of sows and their piglets began showing up. I put some solar lights out with the idea to do some shooting at night with the shotgun and buckshot.

I was unsuccessful the first week of May with my efforts, but on May 9, the two sows and their young came to the bait before dark, and I handed out the lead to them, but only recovered one nice sow. The pigs did not return to the bait for four days, but on the fifth day one of the boars began showing up, and I have not had a chance to document his schedule using the camera photos. Pigs are smart, and reducing their numbers is a time-consuming process, but it is part of a wildlife-habitat program.

No doubt rabbits will be hard hit by the flooding. The rabbits at Camp David have been producing young. February is the highest month of reproduction, followed by March and April; rabbits will continue to produce during the summer, and reproduction slows down in November and December.

The hunters who were against the idea of the new DMAP program that would allow some late hunting for deer hunters in upper Area 6 may be wishing the deer season was open for them in February should the rabbit population take a nosedive in the floodway this year.

About David Moreland 240 Articles
David Moreland is a retired wildlife biologist with LDWF, having served as the State Deer Biologist for 13 years and as Chief of the Wildlife Division for three years. He and his wife Prudy live in rural East Feliciana Parish.

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