Manager: Martin Coker
Okatibbee is located in Lauderdale and Kemper Counties near Collinsville. Take Hwy 19 north from Meridian towards Philadelphia. At the 4-way stop in Collinsville, turn right (east) onto West Lauderdale Road and go 1.8 miles to a "T". At the "T", turn right onto Center Hill-Martin Road and go approximately 1/2 mile. The headquarters entrance is on the left. If you have any questions regarding Okatibbee call (601) 737-5831.
Okatibbee Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is located in the hilly, east-central region of the state approximately 10 miles northwest of Meridian, Mississippi. The land comprising the WMA was purchased in the early 1960's by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to construct Okatibbee Lake for the purposes of flood control, water quality control, water supply, and recreation. Okatibbee Lake was formed by the impoundment of Okatibbee Creek, which is the headwater stream of the Pascagoula River Basin. Construction of the 3,800-acre lake was completed in 1968. Since 1969, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) has managed 6,883 acres surrounding the lake as a WMA, and the Corps has managed 1,352 acres of the project lands for operational and recreational purposes. In 1990, the WMA lands were designated for wildlife mitigation purposes to compensate for wildlife losses resulting from the construction and continuing operation of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway in Mississippi and Alabama.
This small WMA is becoming rapidly surrounded by housing developments as human populations continue to increase in the area. As one drives around the populated outskirts of the area and along the many roads which access the fragmented WMA, it will appear that the WMA has little to offer the outdoor enthusiast. But, don't be fooled. The WMA has a mix of several different wildlife habitats. The valley surrounding the lake is forested with mature bottomland hardwoods with adjacent uplands being composed of a mix of mature pine and hardwood timber. Beaver activity for the past three decades has helped to create a vast expanse of open, marshland habitat on the WMA along the northern reaches of the lake. WMA personnel also maintain permanent wildlife openings and plant summer and winter food plots to provide additional food for wildlife.
The WMA has served as an important site for the re-introduction of endangered and threatened wildlife species into the region. American alligators were re-established at Okatibbee Lake in the 1970's and can be seen throughout the warmer months of the year. Bald eagles were re-established on the WMA beginning in 1992 when 15 juvenile eagles were hacked using a tower hacking facility behind the WMA headquarters building. They were subsequently released on the WMA. Bald eagles, which now overwinter and nest on the WMA, are a popular attraction for bird-watchers.
Hunting is the primary public use activity on the WMA. Squirrel hunting, with and without the use of dogs, is the most popular form of hunting followed closely by deer hunting. Deer hunting pressure ranges between light to moderate with an annual harvest rarely exceeding 20 deer. Seasons available for hunting deer include archery, primitive weapon and gun, with gun being limited to shotguns with slugs only. Deer hunting on the WMA is 'still hunting' only. Waterfowl hunting opportunity exists on the WMA and can be fair, at times, considering that the WMA does not lie along a major flyway. Okatibbee Lake helps to attract more diverse waterfowl species than one would expect to see in the hilly landscape of east-central Mississippi. Rabbit, quail and dove hunting is poor, at best. In the spring, hunters can pursue turkeys on the WMA.