More than a month after Hurricane Isaac invaded southern Louisiana, state wildlife biologists confirmed last week that the Category I storm’s surge and heavy rains could have more long-lasting wildlife and habitat effects than much stronger storms bearing names like Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike.
State Wildlife Division chief Kenny Ribbeck told the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission that extended periods of high water over 391,000 acres in what he described as “The Maurepas Basin,” likely resulted in fawn mortality as high as 90 percent and light-to-moderate adult deer mortality.
Those estimates, Ribbeck said, forced wildlife biologists and managers to call for a reduction in the seasons lengths and switch in the decade-old either-sex-take allowed to deer hunters.
While the emergency plan the LWFC approved during Thursday’s meeting did not change the structure of the archery-deer season, it altered the primitive and modern firearms seasons throughout this basin and most of Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes.
The firearms seasons in these areas will be bucks-only, and a reduction of 46 days for Maurepas Basin and more than 60 days for St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes deer hunters.
Hunters using lands inside the new flood wall in St. Bernard will not be affected by the changes.
Hunters in parts of Living-ston, Ascension, St. James, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, Tangipahoa and St. Tammany parishes will be affected by the Maurepas Basin reductions, to include these bucks-only hunting dates with the number of days cut from each original split in parentheses:
Youth, Oct. 27-28 (5 days lost); modern firearms/still-hunt only, Nov. 23-Dec. 2 (11 days); modern firearms/with or without dogs, Dec. 8-30 (21 days); primitive firearms, Jan. 19-27 (9 days).
The Wildlife Division outlined the Maurepas Basin area: “Beginning on La. 22 at the Tchefuncte River, west and south to La. 70, then south to La. 3125, then east to U.S. 61, then east to the Jefferson Parish line.” The area includes lands west of the Tchefuncte River to the Lake Pontchartrain shoreline, then south along the Pontchartrain shoreline to the St. Charles Parish-Jefferson Parish line.
The Maurepas Swamp, Manchac and Joyce wildlife management areas are included in Maurepas Basin changes. While there is no change for the archery-only Manchac WMA, Joyce will have same dates as the Basin’s private lands but with still-hunt-only provisions, while the Maurepas Swamp WMA will have bucks-only hunts Nov. 3-4 youth-only; Nov. 23-25 and Dec. 22-28; and Jan. 14-20 primitive-firearms splits.
The new deer-hunting seasons and dates for the St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes with days lost in parentheses includes: Youth, Oct. 27-28 (5 days lost); modern firearms/still-hunt only, Nov. 23-25 (21 days); modern firearms/with or without dogs, Dec. 22-Jan. 6 (28 days); primitive firearms, Jan. 19-27 (9 days).
Ribbeck said Isaac’s 5-6 foot high storm surge lingered over the Maurepas Basin for an extended period, a factor that contributed to deer mortality.
Ribbeck said while field personnel found some dead fawns, “We did not see fawns with surviving deer. That’s a big concern because we should have seen fawns. That means hunters might not see the year-and-a-half old deer next year. We might have lost an entire cohort (year class) of deer because of this storm.”
WMAs affected by the restricted seasons in the Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes include Biloxi Marsh and Pass-a-Loutre, and private lands mostly on the east side of the Plaquemines Parish and most of St. Bernard Parish outside the new flood containment levee.
Ribbeck said a 14-foot storm surge was the main factor in what was “likely high fawn mortality and likely low adult (deer) mortality” in these two parishes.
Ribbeck said the information was gleaned from ground, water and air reconnaissance by LDWF personnel, including information from Enforcement Division agents during search-and-rescue operations, the public, landowners and hunters.
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