7/13/2020 9:09:07 AM
By Roger Tankesly
Mahannah Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is a 12,695-acre tract located approximately 15 miles north of Vicksburg, in Warren and Issaquena counties. This WMA is one part of the most ecologically intact and biologically diverse bottomland hardwood ecosystems in the Mississippi Delta. The site is a unique balance of floodplain forest, cypress swamps, and controlled flooded agricultural lands providing habitat for some of the largest wintering waterfowl concentrations in the lower Mississippi Delta.
Mahannah was initially used as a cattle operation. In the late 1960s and 1970s, additional lands were cleared and converted to row crops. These lands were either forested bottomland hardwoods or have the potential to become bottomland hardwoods through reforestation. Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) has managed these lands since 1992 for wetland mitigation purposes through a federally funded partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Mahannah WMA is made up of three different habitat types: mature bottomland hardwood (5,600 acres), hardwood plantations (6,112 acres), and open farmland (1,200 acres). Hardwood tree species common on the WMA include Nuttall oak, green ash, black willow, black tupelo, eastern cottonwood, willow oak, overcup oak, sycamore, sugarberry, sweetgum, bald cypress, pecan, red maple, and persimmon.
Backwater Flooding: The Yazoo Backwater Project, completed in 1978, was designed to prevent lands inside the backwater levees from extreme flooding from the Mississippi River. The Steele Bayou water control structure, completed in 1969, is a primary component for regulating backwater levels. Perhaps the most important part of the Yazoo Backwater Project has not yet been constructed: the pumps. As water levels rise when the Steele Bayou gates are closed, these pumps are designed to evacuate the trapped water to provide relief to the region’s wetlands, forests, wildlife, highways and roads, farmland, and homes.
Mahannah WMA has been greatly affected in the past three years, given the frequent and prolonged backwater flooding. During the 2018 flood, the water level reached 95.2 feet elevation; in 2019 it reached 98.2 feet; and in 2020 it reached 96.9 feet. For perspective, the Mahannah WMA shop floor elevation is 90 feet above sea level; therefore, there has been anywhere from 5-8 feet of water in the facilities for long periods during the past three years. Other WMAs affected by backwater flooding include Twin Oaks, Sunflower, Lake George, Howard Miller, and Phil Bryant.
Wetlands: Moist-soil management is a significant activity on the WMA. Moist-soil impoundments are managed to produce plants and invertebrates beneficial to wintering waterfowl. Practices used to produce moist-soil habitat included applying herbicides to control vegetation response, mowing, disking, and manipulating water levels. Because of recent historical backwater flooding events on Mahannah WMA persisting late into the growing season, water was held on most impoundments. Many years, moist-soil vegetation management is limited to aerial applications using a crop-duster air tractor because of wet soil conditions. Coffee-weed and cocklebur are the two most common undesirable plants targeted with herbicide applications. Water is often held for longer durations on some impoundments to help control undesirable woody plant species. Plus, it serves as habitat for shore birds throughout the summer and promotes habitat diversity for resident waterfowl and other species. These units with this semi-permanent type water are usually appealing to the blue-winged teal that pass through in early fall.
Mahannah WMA is open to public hunting for deer and waterfowl through a special draw hunt process. Deer draw hunt applications are available online during August, while waterfowl draw hunt applications begin on Oct. 28. Waterfowl hunters may participate in the standby hunts on Saturdays, Mondays, and Wednesdays. Squirrel hunting and other activities are allowed nearly every Saturday during the statewide seasons; however, please check the Mahannah WMA regulations for open days.
Many black bear sightings occur on the WMA and the surrounding areas. Bear research projects are ongoing by MDWFP to understand more about population estimates, habitat use, movement, and flooding effects. If you hunt Mahannah WMA, please be aware that black bears are present and always identify your target. Black bears are protected, and it is against the law to kill them.
For More Information
For more information on WMAs in Mississippi, visit www.mdwfp.com/wildlife-hunting/wma or contact the MDWFP Wildlife Bureau at (601) 432-2199.
Roger Tankesly is the Delta WMA Biologist for MDWFP.