Brian Broom Mississippi Clarion Ledger
Published 5:00 AM EDT Jun 28, 2019
Floodwater from the Mississippi River and south Delta is beginning to slowly recede and as it does, some wildlife will make their way back to their home ranges. But the journey to recovery may be far from over.
“We just flat out don’t know,” said Jeff Breazeale of Breazeale Forest Services LLC. “We don’t have anything to compare this to. Nobody knows.”
Displaced deer and other animals have depleted food resources in some areas of the south Delta. Some appear to be on the brink of starvation while others have already died. Those in poor physical condition will need to recover and that will require food resources. Unfortunately, there may not be enough to go around.
Food supply, decreased acorn production
Acorns are a primary food source for deer in fall and winter, but months of standing water in the south Delta have stressed trees. That could lead to years of decreased acorn production.
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“It’s definitely going to hurt reproduction for several years,” Breazeale said. “White oaks will be down.
“You pretty much wiped out production this year. If we have a drought right behind it, that’s not good either.”
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Then there is the problem of possible oak mortality. The south Delta ecosystem has adapted to endure flooding, but how well will oaks and other trees endure standing in water for months?
Impact on timber resources
“None of them are supposed to be in standing water this long,” Breazeale said. “A lot of people don’t understand there’s air in the soil.
“When you take that away, that’s not good. I don’t know if they can tolerate moisture this long.”
Russ Walsh, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks Wildlife Bureau executive director, said it could be years before Mississippi realizes the full impact.
“We’re not seeing any obvious signs of stress-detriment to timber resources in the south Delta,” Walsh said. “If there are timber resources that are impacted, we may not see it for a year or two years from now. There may be some immediate impacts, but likely that will be further down the road.”
Timing of green-up critical
One of those immediate impacts could be acorn production and like Breazeale, Walsh said the possibility of a good crop isn’t promising.
“We won’t know about the acorn crop until the water goes down,” Walsh said. “It’s very possible we’ll have a poor acorn crop. We may very likely have further nutritional stress.”
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One positive aspect of floods is that depending on the time of year they occur, there is typically a burst of lush vegetation in the weeks after the water recedes, but how soon will it happen remains a question.
“We should have green-up following the recession of the water, but the timing is what’s critical there,” Walsh said. “The later we get, the less growing season you have. There’s just less time for it to grow.”
Mississippian Brian Broom is an avid outdoorsman who has worked for the Clarion Ledger for nearly 30 years. To read more of his stories, please subscribe today. Contact Brian Broom at 601-961-7225 or [email protected] Follow Clarion LedgerOutdoors on Facebook and @BrianBroom on Twitter.
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