DEER

Flooding in the south Delta has displaced deer, leading to fear hunting season might cause too much damager to the population.

Parts of the Delta have been underwater for the last eight months, and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks is asking the public how it should respond to the flooding.

The MDWFP's Warren Strain said the flooding has affected deer populations in the region significantly, forcing most to relocate and killing others.

Strain said the effect of relocation on the deer impacts most aspects of their life, making it harder for them to forage for food and raise their young.

"Imagine being dislocated from your home," Strain said.

While drought has struck much of the western United States this year, many areas with tributaries of the Mississippi River have experienced above average rainfall. Even Starkville has suffered from an especially wet year, with stormwater drainage being a constant topic of discussion.

The high amount of rain overflowed the banks of the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers earlier this year. Strain said the water had been above flood levels for eight months in some areas of the Delta, especially in the southern parts of the region.

Now, the MDWFP is reaching out to hunters for their input with a survey delivered via both email and snail mail.

The survey, which began last week and will continue until Aug. 11, asks hunters if they believe the department should reduce or suspend the October-January hunting season this year.

Strain said any action taken by the department would be with the best interest of the state's wildlife in mind, as deer populations in the Delta might need a year to recover. Hunting the animals after the flooding already displaced them might damage the population too much for one year.

If the season were to be suspended, it would only be in areas heavily affected by flooding. Strain said one way the MDWFP might label areas as non-hunting areas could be marking entire counties as protected, though he noted no official method had been planned yet.

Dramatic measures like this are not the norm for the department, though Strain noted some protective action was taken after a particularly horrible flood in 1929.

Still, he insisted this year's flooding was the worst there had been in "decades, at least."

The department has already taken some measures to protect displaced populations through the use of supplemental feeding, the practice of constructing feeding sites for animals so they can survive even if they fail to find food.

Strain said the MDWFP had already put out roughly 30,000 pounds of feed this year.

Whether the department suspends hunting season in parts of the Delta will depend on a combination of data gathered by researchers and public opinion collected by the survey.

The survey is open to everyone on the MDWFP website, but using data obtained from hunting licenses, the department will also specifically target hunters living in affected areas or those known to hunt there.

While the department might ultimately have to go against public opinion to protect wildlife, Strain said it was important to reach out to the people, as they were who the department was meant to serve.

"They're the customers," Strain said. "We'd like their input in the process."

Hunting season for the Delta begins Oct. 1 and runs through Jan. 31.

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