When tragedy in the form of a natural disaster strikes, local economies and people take a big hit, but what is often overlooked is the impact a hurricane can have on native wildlife. Extensive rain and days-long flooding in coastal Louisiana displaced and drowned many ground species.
In what State Wildlife Division Chief Kenny Ribbeck refers to as the Maurepas Basin, deer mortality was the greatest. The Basin is the area that extends from around Lake Maurepas, just about 20 miles northwest of New Orleans. In the Basin, high water covered more than 391,000 acres of land for days. That likely killed as much as 90 percent of fawns as well as a light to moderate amount of adult deer.
This drastic reduction in an entire cohort, or year class, of deer has called for emergency restrictions on this year’s deer hunting season as well as implications for future seasons for the few counties along, or near, the coast.
Hunters in those parishes have already had their seasons cut short. View a list of reduced seasons here. Deer Program Leader for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (DWF) Scott Durham said the department has not reclaimed any tags already issued, but it has limited the deer season by cutting more than 50 percent of previously announced dates. Also, all firearms seasons are now buck only, while only archery season still includes hunting for both does and bucks. The DWF does not think that hunting females will hurt the deer population. “That [female deer harvest] is a relatively small portion of the harvest,” Durham said.
The emergency declaration shortening the seasons is in effect for six months. After that time, the hunting season may either return to normal, or another emergency declaration will be issued if wildlife officials deem the population cannot sustain a regular hunting season.
“We don’t know what next season will look like yet,” Durham said. “We will continue to talk to hunters and deer management clubs and get a feet for a rebound, or we will make that decision later.”
As of right now, there was consideration of altering small game seasons, primarily in the two most affected parishes, Plaquemines and St. Bernard, but Durham said it does not appear as if there will be adjustments for the time being.