Signs and sounds of illegal hunting at BREC parks spooking cyclists _lowres

Advocate staff photo by APRIL BUFFINGTON -- Norris Pitre, BREC's construction farmer hangs a sign to stop deer hunters from hunting on Sandy Creek Community Park, BREC newly purchased property on Thursday, December 11 in Pride, La.

Riding along mountain bike trails in East Baton Rouge Parish parks, cyclists often hear gunshots.

Wildlife agents occasionally find a lone deer stand in a park. And recently, piles of corn showed up along a biking trail in one of the parks.

Hunting is not common in BREC parks. Park and wildlife officials couldn’t recall an instance in which someone had ever been shot by a hunter in a park.

But, occasionally, park rangers and wildlife agents find evidence that someone hunted or attempted to hunt on park grounds.

“A few times a year, we get complaints about people hunting on the BREC parks,” said Capt. Len Yokum, of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Several weeks ago, a dog walker saw a deer stand in a BREC park. By the time wildlife and fisheries agents responded, the stand had been moved, Yokum said, but agents are keeping an eye on the area to try to catch the hunter.

Although Yokum couldn’t cite a specific number of hunting violations in BREC parks over the years — the agency doesn’t track such violations — he said it has happened before.

BREC recently began installing some signs in a few parks and conservation areas to remind people that hunting is outlawed in such places. The signs, which will go in places such as the Frenchtown Road and Blackwater conservation areas in addition to other parks, also warn patrons to be wary of hunting on private land adjacent to public parks where hunting is legal.

Deer stands, although rarely found, usually turn up in parts of parks either rarely trekked upon or only recently purchased by the city-parish, said Cheryl Michelet, a BREC spokeswoman.

Sometimes, though, hunters cross paths with those enjoying wildlife or biking trails.

“They did find some corn that was left in the area of the Hooper Road bike trail,” Michelet said, referring to the trail at BREC’s Hooper Road Park.

Riders at the Hooper Road Park and the Comite River Park — sites of the parish’s only public mountain bike trails — often hear gunshots.

“Any time I hear gunshots, I’m just thinking, ‘Please don’t shoot me,’ ” said Drew Sutton, a local mountain biker.

Bob Walker, president of the Baton Rouge Area Mountain Bike Association, said sounds of gunfire and barking dogs, which could be hunting dogs, are troubling for riders.

“You’re putting anybody else at the park in danger,” Walker said of the hunting.

Although he hasn’t run into a hunter himself while riding, other people have shared such experiences with him. In response, Walker asked BREC and LDWF to address the occasional hunting problems, in particular, the recent piles of corn seen along the bike trail.

“You don’t put corn out for squirrels and rabbits,” Walker said.

Follow Ben Wallace on Twitter @_BenWallace.