9/18/2020 10:17:15 AM
Ward Bayou Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is located 15 miles north of Pascagoula, along the Pascagoula River basin in Jackson County. The area has 13,000 acres of mostly bottom-land hardwoods with about 700 acres of upland pines. The area is managed by Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) for both game and nongame wildlife. Access to the property is by boat along the Pascagoula River or by Highways 57 or 63 and county roads.
The land is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Wildlife Mitigation Project. It was purchased in 1986 to diminish wildlife losses resulting from the construction and operation of the waterway in Alabama and Mississippi.
As part of Ward Bayou’s mission to alleviate impact on wildlife, the upland area was reforested with longleaf pine over the past two decades. These longleaf stands are burned on a two- to three-year rotation to maintain an herbaceous (grass and forbs) understory for a variety of species, including bobwhite quail and the threatened gopher tortoise. Habitat is being created to help restore the endangered Mississippi gopher frog. Efforts are being made to control invasive species, such as cogongrass and Chinese tallow tree. Sandbars along the Pascagoula River are being managed for the endangered yellow-blotched map turtle. Control of vegetation on sandbars is critical to create areas for turtles to nest. Some sandbars have been closed to recreational activities during the turtle’s breeding season.
Hunting and fishing are popular, with deer and squirrel being the more popular species hunted. Wild hogs also can be pursued to aid in population-control efforts. Turkey hunting is a permitted youth hunt and has been a popular draw hunt opportunity over the years. The many small bayous and oxbow lakes on the WMA provide ample opportunity for fishing. While fishing was impacted by Hurricane Katrina, MDWFP fisheries biologists spent many hours stocking the bayous and river system with bluegill and redear sunfish, largemouth bass, and channel catfish. This restocking helped speed up recovery of the fisheries in the area.
Hiking and birdwatching also are popular activities on the area. Ward Bayou, along with the Pascagoula River WMA, has been designated as an Important Bird Area by the Audubon Society. Ward Bayou is home to the swallow-tail kite, a bird that has been extirpated from most of its range, as well as Mississippi kites, and Swainson’s, Kentucky, and prothonotary warblers. The WMA has a trail along the banks of Ward Bayou that was constructed with help from members of the local Audubon Society. There are also miles of roads to walk. Visitors from all over the United States enjoy the natural diversity of Ward Bayou. The area is often used by local school groups and organizations as an outdoor classroom to learn about south Mississippi’s native plant and animal species.
For More Information
To learn more about WMAs in Mississippi, visit www.mdwfp.com/wildlife-hunting/wma or contact the MDWFP Wildlife Bureau at (601) 432-2199.