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Black bellied whistling ducks

Practice safe boating

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Enforcement Division reminds boaters to practice safe boating as the spring and summer boating season approaches.

The reminder comes as boating fatalities increased to seven in Louisiana in 2021. At this time in 2020, there were only two recreational boating fatalities.

“We haven’t even gotten into the prime boating season in Louisiana yet and we are seeing fatalities climb at an alarming pace,” said Col. Chad Hebert, the head of the LDWF Enforcement Division. “We are urging boaters to please adhere to all safe boating laws and practices."

“A life jacket is the lifesaving equipment on a boat. Please, please use it,” said LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet. “We want more people enjoying the water, but there are safety rules that are important to follow.”

The LDWF Enforcement Division encourages everyone to wear PFDs (commonly called life jackets) and have a sober operator while on the water. They also recommend that all boaters take LDWF’s boating education course.

It is required for anyone 16 years old and younger to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved and properly fitting PFD while underway on a vessel under 26 feet in length. Also, everyone on a vessel less than 16 feet in length, propelled by a hand tiller motor, must wear a PFD while underway. There must also be a PFD for each person on board a vessel and anyone riding on a personal watercraft must wear a PFD.

Operating or driving a vessel in Louisiana while intoxicated has the same penalties as operating a vehicle. A DWI on the water can be issued to anyone operating a moving vessel while impaired.

Boaters are encouraged to take the LDWF-approved safe boating course. It is mandatory for anyone born after Jan.1, 1984, to operate a motorboat over 10 horsepower. LDWF certified over 9,610 boaters in 2020.

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Ducks dying from cholera

The black-bellied whistling duck avian cholera mortality event that started in the New Orleans area in early December 2020 continues to kill birds, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said.

The mortality event has killed more than 1,000 black-bellied whistling ducks in New Orleans and surrounding areas, including the Audubon Park, Audubon Zoo, Lafreniere Park and private ponds. Park and zoo personnel are assisting with carcass removal in an effort to reduce the spread of the disease.

This naturally occurring circumstance is caused by the bacteria Pasteurella multocida and can result in waterfowl death. Commingling of waterfowl spreads the infection within the population.

Many species of birds and mammals, including pets, are susceptible to infection from the bacteria that causes avian cholera, but the waterfowl strain does not commonly infect those other species. Pets should not be allowed to come in contact with dead or dying waterfowl.

Common signs of avian cholera are erratic flight, loss of head control (floppy necks), mucous discharge from the nasal openings and death.

For more information or to report waterfowl mortalities, contact Jim LaCour at