Wildlife & Habitat

A Sunset Scene

Catahoula NWR is a haven for many types of wildlife.  From white-tailed deer to migratory waterfowl and songbirds, hundreds of wildlife species make their home on the Refuge.

  • Wintering Waterfowl

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    Catahoula NWR is located in the Mississippi Flyway, which is a critically important region for migrating waterfowl in North America as well as southern breeding populations of wood ducks. Infrastructure to provide intensive and highly productive management of moist soil and Catahoula’s geographical location in the Mississippi flyway combine to attract thousands of mallards, pintail, teal, gadwall and wood ducks during the winter. In 1979, the Duck Lake Impoundment was created to provide 1200 acres of waterfowl habitat. Management of the impoundment is to manipulate water levels to promote the growth of aquatic and moist soil vegetation. In 2001, Catahoula NWR was designated a Globally Important Bird Area. Catahoula Lake is recognized as a Wetlands of International Importance (RAMSAR site): a historic concentration area for shorebirds, waterbirds, and migrating/wintering waterfowl. Catahoula NWR also borders a portion of the Dewey Wills Wildlife Management Area. Together, these areas provide a haven for wildlife and preserve representative samples of the unique habitats originally found in the Lower Mississippi River Ecosystem.

  • Wading Birds, Shorebirds,Marsh Birds

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    Wading birds are abundant in the refuge’s waterfowl impoundments, canals, and bayous throughout the year. Wading birds and Shorebirds can be found using the mudflats and shallow water areas of Duck Lake and its tailwaters and the impoundments within willow Lake Unit of the Headquarters Unit and Minnow Ponds, Rhinehart Lake, Round Lake, and Long Lake located within the Bushley Unit. Shorebirds can be observed from spring to fall in these areas, but the highest use occurs as the lakes and impoundments are drawn down from July 1 through October 31.
    Species regularly observed include green herons, cattle egrets, great egrets, little blue herons, great blue herons, yellow and black-crowned night herons, anhingas, white ibis, glossy ibis, wood storks, and tricolor herons.

  • White-tailed Deer

    Buck deer

    White-tailed deer are a common year-round resident on Catahoula NWR. Popular with hunters and wildlife viewers alike, deer can be seen all over the refuge. Deer are habitat generalists, and can find plentiful food on and around the refuge. In forests, deer eat herbaceous plants, woody plants, acorns, and fruit. They will also venture into nearby agricultural fields for soybeans and other crops.

    Before human interference, white-tailed deer coexisted on Catahoula NWR with wolves and cougars, both of which are no longer present in the area. Wolves and cougars helped keep deer populations in check through natural predation. Today, with natural predators mostly gone, hunting is essential to maintain healthy populations of deer and keep them from doing damage to the forest. When deer overpopulate, they are more susceptible to diseases and parasites. They can also harm the forest by eating plant material so that few trees or shrubs can regenerate.

    Today, deer populations on the refuge are closely monitored. Refuge staff collect age, sex, and size data from harvested deer during hunting season and conduct browse surveys during the spring to monitor what deer are eating. The refuge also works closely with Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for professional consultations and management plans.

  • Bottomland Hardwood Forest

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    Bottomland hardwoods are forests that are composed of hardwood tree species such as oak, elm, and hickory that thrive in lowland habitats, typically along river systems. These forests are highly diverse in species and very productive. Hardwood forests provide great quality habitat for white-tailed deer, waterfowl, wading birds, and forest songbirds. Large areas have been reforested on the Refuge. Currently, there are 8,599 acres of maturing bottomland hardwood forest and 13,868 acres of reforestation. The Refuge will continue to manage and enhance these areas with the goal of providing a diverse habitat for waterfowl, neotropical migratory birds, and resident wildlife species