LDWF Pass-a-Loutre Wildlife Management Area celebrates 100 years

Sunrise at Pass-a-Loutre WMA. Pass-a-Loutre celebrates its 100th anniversary in November 2021.

South Pass Lighthouse on Pass-a-Loutre WMA.

Getting there is difficult, but leaving maybe even more so. The Pass-a-Loutre Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is a unique WMA in the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) property inventory.

Located at the mouth of the Mississippi River in the far south of Plaquemines Parish, Pass-a-Loutre is part of the Mississippi River Delta, one of the largest active river deltas in the world and the largest in the country. The WMA is home to a great diversity of fisheries, ranging from freshwater, estuarine and pelagic fisheries. It is also one of the most productive habitats for wildlife.

And this month the WMA, which first became the LDWF in 1921, turns 100.

The name Pass-a-Loutre is a colorful reminder of the French influence on the region and the early colonization of Louisiana. Pass-à-Loutre means Col of the Otter. This translation is also a reminder of the Louisiana fur trade which was of national importance in the 18e and 19e centuries.

With 115,000 acres, it is the second largest WMA in the department’s inventory. It encompasses the muddy waters of the Mississippi River Delta, including two of the three river passes where the Mississippi River ends and Head of Passes begins.

“This is a WMA as unique as it is, not only in our state but across the country,” said LDWF secretary Jack Montoucet. “I could talk for hours about the diversity of wildlife and fish you see here. About the research we have done and plans to create land from the sediments of the Mississippi River. But what is so captivating is the beauty and loneliness of this WMA. It’s like you’ve disappeared somewhere else. ”

The only access to the WMA, which is 12 miles from the nearest road, is by air or sea. This typically means crossing the Mississippi River, which involves negotiating international shipping traffic and large domestic supply vessels in combination with occasional dangerous conditions such as rough waters and dense fog.

Getting there can be a challenge, which is one of the reasons Pass-A-Loutre is so extraordinary. The unique habitats provided by the WMA attract a variety of wildlife and fish.

For the avid athlete, few places can offer the abundance and diversity of the game to pursue. It is common on this piece of sportsman’s paradise for hunters to harvest a limit of ducks as it is the terminal end of the Mississippi Flyway and winters several hundred thousand waterfowl each year. You can even bag larger game like deer or wild pigs.

Pass-a-Loutre WMA welcomes between 40,000 and 60,000 recreational users each year. There are an impressive number of out-of-state users, accounting for up to 35% of annual recreational visits. Recreational use combined with the demands of the shipping industry, oil and gas production, commercial fisheries and restoration interests creates competing interests for the use of WMA lands and waterways. Regional staff carefully calculate each request to be mutually beneficial or disrupt other competing interests as little as possible.

The management of Pass-a-Loutre continues to focus on some of the same principles it was founded on – providing optimal habitat for wintering waterfowl. In 1921, the Louisiana legislature designated Pass-a-Loutre as a state-run shooting range managed primarily for the wintering of waterfowl. This establishment of public land to be managed for public hunting was one of the first of its kind in the nation.

Current waterfowl management practices include chemical treatment of pest plant species and implementation of restoration projects. Restoration projects on the WMA are designed to place dredged material at desired elevations to promote the growth of targeted vegetative species such as delta duck potato, freshwater millet and wild millet, and preferred food sources for waterfowl.

Other important projects seek to increase the inflow of fresh sediment-laden river water to shallow water areas to promote land construction and vegetative growth of emerging species, plants taller than surrounding vegetation, and desired submerged or partially submerged species such as pondweed, milfoil and coontail.

For more information on Pass-a-Loutre, visit https://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/page/passaloutre.

For interview, photos and video, go to https://ldwf.canto.com/v/pal100year/.

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