What We Do
Refuge staff use a variety of tools to manage wildlife habitat including forest management, waterfowl management, andmanagement.
Management and Conservation
Foresters at Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge work year round to conserve and manage one of the largest contiguous stands of bottomland hardwoods in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. Some of the current strategies being used on the Refuge include restoration by reforestation and thinning existing forest stands.
Reforestation is conducted on lands throughout the Refuge. Native bottomland hardwood trees are planted in areas where needed to restore habitat once known to the area. Up to twenty different bottomland hardwood tree species may be planted on a given site to ensure habitat diversity. Areas may be hand-planted or machined-planted using tree seedlings. Firebreaks are also established in and around the perimeters of the reforested areas to help prevent wildfires.
The majority of the existing Refuge forests are in a closed or nearly-closed canopy condition, which generally limits habitat diversity. Forest management is the most effective and efficient management tool for providing quality wildlife habitat. Before management decisions are made, an inventory of forest stands is conducted to evaluate the current habitat conditions and determine which areas need to be treated or thinned. The areas selected are designated and all trees to be thinned are marked with blue paint. A logging operation will take place to remove the trees that are marked. This is conducted under the direct supervision of the Refuge foresters. The treatments are a combination of single-tree selection, group selection, and patchcuts. The objective of the thinnings is to reduce canopy closure which will allow sunlight penetration to the forest floor and increase production of herbaceous vegetation on the ground layer. This provides excellent food and cover for many wildlife species.
Refuge biologists manage approximately 1,000 acres of moist-soil units for waterfowl, shorebirds, and other water-loving birds. These areas can be flooded during the winter months when the bulk of migrating waterfowl use the refuge and then drained during the warmer months for management. A variety of natural plant "weeds" produce seeds that are preferred waterfowl foods. Invertebrates (crayfish, dragonfly larvae, beetles, etc.) also flourish in these wet environments and are important sources of protein for birds. By using different management techniques, biologists can encourage the growth of beneficial plants such as smartweed, wild millets, and sedges and their corresponding invertebrate communities.
Commonly used management techniques include disking with a tractor, mowing with a tractor, flooding with water, and sometimes prescribed fire. All of these actions set back succession. To understand succession, think of what happens to a fallow field over time. It may start out with no vegetation if it has recently been plowed. Grass grows, then shrubs, and eventually trees as it returns to a forest. This is plant succession in action! By using different management techniques, biologists can keep these moist-soil units in an early stage of succession where the plants produce a lot of seeds that are beneficial to waterfowl.
Invasive Species Management
Tensas River NWR has several invasive plant and animal species that require constant monitoring and control.
Feral hogs have become a major issue on the refuge over the last few years. Not native to the United States, these animals are destructive invaders who out-compete native wildlife species (e.g. white-tailed deer) for plant and animal food resources. They "till" up the ground by rooting for food and disturb native plant communities. Because of their tendencies to wallow and root in wet areas and along bodies of water, they also have negative impacts on water quality and wetlands and can impair tree regeneration. Additionally, feral hogs may carry diseases that are communicable to humans and other domestic and wild animals. These diseases include brucellosis and pseudo-rabies.
Trifoliate orange is a non-native invasive plant found in some areas on the southern part of the refuge. Originally from China and Korea, it was brought over as an ornamental plant and for use as rootstock for grafted citrus plants. It grows into a large, dense shrub with long thorns and large white flowers. Refuge staff try to control and eliminate existing populations of this shrub and keep it from spreading to other parts of the refuge.
The Refuge is open to visitors from 4:00 am until 2 hours after legal sunset. There is a Visitor Center on Quebec Road with exhibits but hours vary with staffing so please call 318-574-2664 before coming. Even if it is closed, however, there are several activities available for the public within the general vicinity of the Visitor Center. From the Visitor Center Parking Lot, take a walk on the Hollow Cypress Boardwalk to the Observation Tower. Also be sure and take a spin around the Wildlife Drive, a 4.5 mile gravel loop that shows some of our cooperative farming units, moist-soil units, and reforested areas. From the Wildlife Drive, visit the Rainey Brake observatory and public use pier via walking trail.
Protecting resources and people on our refuges is the fundamental responsibility of refuge officers. The mission of the Refuge Law Enforcement Program is to support the administration of the National Wildlife Refuge System through the management and protection of natural, historic and cultural resources, property, and people on lands and waters of our national wildlife refuges.
Laws and Regulations
Please consult the Public Use Regulations Brochure for complete rules and regulations. This brochure is available at refuge entrances, at the Visitor Center, and online. Visitors are permitted on the refuge from 4:00 am until 2 hours after legal sunset.
Below you can find a few of the most commonly asked-about regulations on the refuge.
- Littering is prohibited.
- No camping or overnight parking is allowed.
- Fires are prohibited.
- Collecting or harvesting any articles of antiquity, plants, animals or parts thereof is prohibited unless specifically authorized.
- Do not feed the wildlife - for their safety and yours