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University » Public Lands » Delta NWR
Delta NWR

national-wildlife-refuge-logoDelta National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1935, and the primary purpose of the refuge was to provide sanctuary and habitat for wintering waterfowl. Its 49,000 acres were formed by the deposition of sediment carried by the Mississippi River. This area combines the warmth of the Gulf and the wealth of the river. Its lush vegetation is the food source for a multitude of fish, waterfowl and animals, Delta is the winter home for hundreds of thousands of snow geese, coots and ducks.

Delta NWR supports a wide variety of wildlife species. The deer hunting can be exceptional, as this area was used as one of the core trapping areas during the deer restocking program in the 1960s. Tens of thousands of wintering waterfowl take advantage of the rich food resources found in the delta. Large numbers of other bird species can be found on the refuge, with numbers peaking during the spring and fall migrations. Large numbers of wading birds nest on the refuge, and thousands of shorebirds can be found on tidal mudflats and deltaic splays. Numerous furbearers and game mammals are year-round residents, and the marshes and waterways provide year-round and seasonal habitat for a diversity of fish and shellfish species.

Thousands of shorebirds use the refuge as a wintering area and also as a resting and staging area during migration. Commonly observed species include greater and lesser yellowlegs, long-billed dowitchers, dunlins, western sandpipers, Wilson’s plovers, killdeer and willets.

Raptors are a common sight on Delta NWR. The most commonly observed species include American kestrels, northern harriers, red-tailed hawks and turkey vultures. Black vultures, Cooper’s hawks, merlins, red-shouldered hawks and sharp-shinned hawks have also been seen on the refuge. Ospreys are common winter visitors to the refuge.

Untold numbers of passerine birds (songbirds) utilize the refuge as a resting and staging area during the spring and fall migrations. Deer are frequently observed by the refuge staff on the natural pass banks, manmade spoil banks, and the marshes associated with these features. Swamp rabbits are found over much of the refuge, and populations appear to be stable. A number offurbearing species make their homes on Delta NWR. The most abundant of these is the nutria.

The marshes and waterways of the Delta NWR support a diversity of fish species. Speckled trout, redfish, flounder, blue crabs and shrimp are important saltwater species found on the refuge. Catfish, largemouth bass, and various sunfish species are found in the freshwater areas of the refuge. Delta NWR is an extremely important nursery area for both fresh and saltwater fish species.

The marsh habitat on Delta NWR is classified as Palustrine Emergent Wetlands. Two basic marsh zones occur within the marsh habitat: fresh marsh nearest the main tributaries and brackish marsh near the Gulf of Mexico.

The fresh marsh is located primarily on mineral soil and to a very limited extent, on flotons (i.e., floating mats of emergent vegetation). Approximately 60% of the refuge consists of the fresh marsh zone. The predominant plants are delta duck potato (Sagittaria platyphylla), elephant ear (Colocasia antiquorum), wild millet (Echinocloa crusgalli), delta three-square (Scirpus deltarum), and roseau cane (Phragmites sp.). The marsh is tidally influenced and water levels fluctuate from a few inches to a foot or more. The fertile soils, vegetative composition and shallow water environment create a highly productive habitat for fish and wildlife.

The refuge lands are accessible only by boat. Despite this limitation, the area has a long record of public use. The majority of this public use has been in the form of consumptive uses such as hunting, fishing, and trapping.

Numerous recreational opportunities are available at the current time. Hunting programs allow the use of renewable natural resources. Sport fishing is enjoyed by numerous visitors. Other public use includes wildlife observation, canoeing and kayaking and photography. No camping is allowed on the refuge.

Delta National Wildlife Refuge took a direct hit from Hurricane Katrina. Facilities at the refuge sub-headquarters located in Venice, LA were severely damaged. The refuge itself was also changed in many ways, as it has over the years when hurricanes and tropical storms have hit the area. Marsh and beach areas were eroded, trees were blown down or damaged, debris was washed onto the refuge and vegetation was stressed by saltwater intrusion. Several oil spills and a grounded barge impacted the refuge. We expect the refuge to slowly adjust and recover from the hurricane.

News Breakers
Restocking Efforts in Louisiana 04/28/2009
Louisiana’s deer herd was once on the verge of extinction. Hear about the Louisiana Dept. of Wildlife & Fisheries’ successful efforts to replenish the herd beginning in the 1950s. >> read more

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