Outdoor Corner: Hurricane Ida

Lyle Johnson

So Ida has come and gone, physically that is. The consequences will remain for a very long time. Even after the physical damage might be repaired, the mental anguish will hang around longer than is healthy.

Here it is; Grand Isle beginning the efforts of rebuilding.

So, let’s talk about the effects on the outdoors, as this is an outdoor column. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says it will investigate each one of the substantial fish kills it predicts throughout southeast Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. 

Hurricane-related fish kills are generally caused by low dissolved oxygen (DO), and can occur from landfall of the storm until weeks after the event. The main factors contributing to hurricane-related fish kills include storm surge, the churning up of oxygen-poor water and sediment due to wind and rain, and the sudden input of large amounts of organic debris into waterways.  

Just a small example of things to come. This photo was taken along the Amite River.

Following the event, organic matter will begin to decompose, and microbes will deplete the DO from the water causing fish to “suffocate.”  These factors can work alone or in conjunction to cause fish kills following a hurricane.  

Storm-related fish kills have occurred in Louisiana since before recorded history, and the ecosystems have evolved to be resilient and bounce back from them. Decomposers and scavengers including microbes, crawfish, crabs, fish, alligators, turtles, raccoons, and birds will do their part helping to clean up fish carcasses. 

Many fish and aquatic organisms will find refuge from the low DO waters, and participate in the boom year of reproduction that will surely follow since there will be fewer predators and more resources available by next spring.

While fish kills are shocking to experience and can appear devastating, they often lead to a rejuvenated system that is healthy and naturally replenished in the following years.  

Animals will be affected as well. In the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, wildlife species will seek higher ground and be displaced into habitat with which they may not be familiar. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) urges the public to be especially cognizant of wildlife forced into populated areas by flood water from the storm.

Rising waters force wildlife from flooded habitat into adjacent residential and commercial areas where they may come into contact with residents. LDWF urges citizens to minimize contact with animals while they seek temporary refuge from their flooded home range.

Wild animals not posing a threat to humans should be left alone and should not be fed. Feeding wild animals will encourage those animals to remain in the vicinity of a new food source when they should be allowed to find natural habitat and food sources on their own.

Here are some basic tips:

  • Avoid areas where displaced wildlife has taken refuge.
  • Avoid interaction with and do not feed displaced wildlife.
  • Avoid roadways near flooded areas to reduce likelihood of disturbance and collisions with wildlife.

Listed below are some of the species we should be concern about: 

Black Bears:  The Louisiana black bear is a species of concern during a flood incident when high water moves bears out of their habitat. For assistance with black bears that may be forced into populated areas by flood waters, call 1-337-262-2080.

Alligators, snakes: Flood waters will carry reptiles into populated areas where they may not normally be noted in significant numbers. Following the impact of flood waters, exercise extreme caution when salvaging possessions from flooded areas. Wildlife, especially reptiles, may remain in flooded areas and pose a safety threat.

Venomous snake species in Louisiana include the canebrake rattlesnake, the copperhead, the cottonmouth, the eastern diamondback rattlesnake, the harlequin coral snake, the pygmy rattlesnake and the Texas coral snake. 

Deer, Feral Hogs: Deer and feral hog populations represent the two large quadruped species that may appear in populated areas in significant numbers as flood waters move wild animals out of natural habitat.

As is the case with all wild animals, how these species will react to humans in close contact situations is unpredictable. LDWF recommends allowing these species, when sighted individually or in groups, to move unimpeded through flooded areas as they seek higher ground.

And any time water displaces ground animals; an increased mortality rate takes place. And probably more that we like to admit, some illegal harvesting of game takes place when high water puts them all in one place.

This time will probably be the same as others with some worse casualties in human life, property damage and wildlife losses. As I sit here at the computer on Monday morning, I’m trying to find the silver lining behind all these clouds.

Not too long ago I was in Grand Isle, amazed at all the beautiful camps and homes and imagining what a big hurricane would do to these kinds of places and the aftermath. It happened all along our shoreline. I’m thinking about the coastline we will lose, the fish that will be killed, all the duck habitat and feed that will be destroyed and the flooding that will take place.

The mud to wash out, the carpet to pull up and everything else that goes along with it and that silver lining could be dimmed by the overwhelming circumstances.

But one thing is for sure whether on the human side or the wildlife side, God has given us the resolve to carry on. There was tragedy on the human side and if you aren’t the one it happens to, you will be the ones helping to get the others through. We will turn around and look back a while from now and see that we made and are better people for it.

On the wildlife side, God created nature to replenish itself. We may have to change the way we look at things or maybe just be grateful for the times we have already spent in the outdoors. We may have to cut back on our outings for a while, catch a few less fish or harvest a little less game, but it will be back.

Take a little time to think how much you’ve gotten to enjoy nature and just how precious it is. Just maybe we’ll all appreciate it a little more after this. So until next week, have fun in the outdoors, be VERY safe and may God truly bless you!