CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. -- With current flood conditions in southeast Missouri, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) encourages the public to leave wildlife on levees and other high areas alone. According to Protection Regional Supervisor Ken West, “The flooding has displaced a few hundred deer and turkey as well as other wildlife” West advises that native wildlife are resilient and have been surviving floods for many years.
One of the biggest concerns for wildlife is food and cover during flood conditions. Jason Sumners is a cervid biologist with MDC and works extensively with Missouri’s deer herd and said, “Deer are exceptionally good swimmers. We have documentation of deer swimming to and from river islands.”
Certainly the flood conditions in New Madrid and Mississippi County are more extreme with 132,000 acres in the inundated floodway. During recent aerial and boat surveys MDC estimated that on roughly fifty miles of levee there are about twelve deer per mile. The levees are covered with grasses, forbs and tree sprouts which provide food and some cover for wildlife stranded there.
Wildlife can usually survive if given the chance to cope with the situation as nature has equipped them.
West has seen numerous floods in the region and knows from experience that even if nutritious food could be provided, delivering it often causes more harm than good to the animals. “Attempts to feed them can disturb the animals and force them back into the water.” Boats and helicopters are noisy which run deer into the water and away from habitat, sometimes causing more harm than good. “That’s why it is so important that stranded wildlife not be disturbed”, says West.
MDC is currently taking food to stranded wildlife on Towosahgy State Historic Site mounds where an exceptionally high number of deer have concentrated. They are completely out of food and isolated from any nearby high ground. MDC will continue to monitor the situation and make decisions on a case-by-case basis.