As water gushes from the opened gates of the Morganza Spillway into the Atchafalaya Basin — and the Atchafalaya River laps over its own banks — wildlife are fleeing the expanding flooded areas and heading for higher ground. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) is warning people to let wild animals be, even if you see them lying on a levee for a long while. They could just be resting after an arduous and exhausting effort to get away from rising water, and startling them could prompt them to retreat back to where they came from and possibly drown, or get tangled in fences built to keep domesticated livestock off the levees.
Animals being displaced by high water include alligators, armadillo, black bears (which are on Louisiana’s endangered species list), deer, opossums, raccoons, snakes and wild boar, hogs and turkeys.
(More photos below the jump).
State officials have closed at least two large levees that extend the length of the Atchafalaya Basin to cut down on encounters between humans and frightened, hungry wildlife being driven from their natural habitat.
The LDWF says it has 205 agents surveying levees and answering calls about wildlife sightings on farms and in communities. The agency warns residents not to approach the wild animals, which can be dangerous when spooked. The agency already has received at least 14 bear sightings.
If you need to report displaced wildlife, call (800) 442-2511.
Closer to New Orleans, law enforcement authorities are trying to keep people off the levees for a different reason — to preserve the integrity of the already saturated and pressure-stressed structures. The metropolitan area is experiencing its own infestation of wild critters (see Kevin Allman’s story “Wild In the Streets”) because of a population explosion among wildlife.