As if we needed any more scares from this pandemic, the latest from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is inspectors have found the COVID virus in whitetail deer in four states — Illinois, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania.

Louisiana outdoorsman Jack Isaacs sent out the alert and said he contacted Department of Wildlife and Fisheries veterinarian Dr. Jim Lacour about our state’s deer herd.

Lacour told Isaacs this virus doesn’t appear to be present in our deer herds, and that “evidence so far suggests it is not a significant threat to humans.”

Lacour further suggested an abundance of caution be taken during this hunting season, and that hunters should use disposable gloves when handling any deer’s respiratory organs.

The USDA report stated that COVID antibodies were found in 33% of the 481 samples collected in those four states from January 2020 into 2021. Michigan (60%) and Pennsylvania (34%) had the higher numbers while New York (18%) and Illinois (7%) were on the study’s lower end.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service report also noted:

  • An unknown source of the virus in the deer and it was “possible they were exposed through people, the environment, other deer or another animal species.”
  • No evidence “to suggest” animals, including deer, are “playing a significant role in the spread” of COVID to humans.

The two-page info sheet can be found on the USDA website under “Questions and Answers: Results of Study on SARS-CoV-2 in White-Tailed Deer.”

Ducks down

There was good news coming from last week’s Wildlife and Fisheries’ preseason estimate on the number of ducks in three survey zones for the Nov. 13 West Zone opener of another 60-day duck season. The East Zone season opens this coming Saturday.

The Waterfowl Study team added up a total of 1.3 million ducks in Southwest, Southeast and Catahoula Lake areas. It’s the highest preseason total in four years and substantially higher than the 833,000 posted in last November’s estimate. Still, it’s lower than the 1.5 million average of the past five years.

Even better is the Nov. 8-10 survey couldn’t account for the cold front that blew through our state Thursday, a weather system which certainly pushed more ducks into Louisiana.

One major item noted in the report: “Despite Hurricane Ida’s path through the (southeast) marshes in late-August, both coastal regions showed increased bird numbers from last year. Estimates in (southwest) and (southeast Louisiana) are up 57% and 19%. The 87,000 birds on Catahoula Lake is a marked increase from last year (12,000).”

The record-low number of gadwall (gray) ducks and mottled ducks is unnerving. Gray ducks along with bluewing teal are staples for early-season hunters, and grays are down 16% from last year and 70% from the long-term average of 818,000. The last five-year average is 603,000. Mottled ducks are down 27,000 from last November and 72% from the long-team average of 64,000.

The study noted habitat conditions in the southwest area were “above average” and appeared recovered from 2020’s storm damage, and that lack of rainfall has agricultural fields dry.

Ida’s damage in the southeast area left 88% of the ducks in only two of the 10 lines in the flyover study, and “major impacts were observed in Terrebonne and Barataria Bays, west of Houma north of Grand Isle. Marsh damage decreased and bird numbers increased farther east ... and north of Buras submerged aquatic vegetation was again present in the isolated marsh ponds that were more protected from wind and wave action. The mouth of the Mississippi River looked virtually non-impacted by Ida.”

Solid showing

Louisiana angler Wade Roberts, a national high school championship qualifier finished eighth in the BBZ Junior Championship World Finals held on Lake Taneycomo in Missouri. The 54-angler field was challenged to bring in the heaviest bass they could in eight hours on the water. Roberts’ entry was a 2.88-pounder.

Evan Cox, of Loveland, Colorado, won with a 5-pounder.

Red snapper

With an estimated catch of 10,545 pounds in the week ending Oct. 31, our state’s private recreational red snapper landing estimate stands at 694,715, or 85% of this year’s 816,439-pound allocation.

The complete LA Creel landings chart can be found on the Wildlife and Fisheries’ website: wlf.louisiana.gov/page/red-snapper.