LACASSINE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
LACASSINE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
209 Nature Road
Lake Arthur, Louisiana 70649
Lacassine NWR, in Cameron and Evangeline Parishes in southwestern Louisiana, was established on 12/30/37 by Executive Order No. 7780 as "a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife." The refuge is nearly 35,000 acres in size, including 653 acres leased from the Cameron Parish School Board. The vegetation types occurring on the refuge are primarily water tolerant grasses, sedges, and shrubs. Vegetation in the undeveloped marshes is dominated by bulltongue and maidencane. The habitat is divided into 16,500 acres of natural, freshwater marsh and open water, 16,000 acres of managed, freshwater marsh (Lacassine Pool), 2,200 acres of rice, wheat, soybean, and natural moist soil fields, 350 acres of flooded gum and cypress trees, and 350 acres of restored tallgrass prairie. Wildlife species found on the refuge are those indigenous to the marshes of coastal Louisiana. Several nesting colonies of wading and water birds such as ibis, roseate spoonbills, and egrets are found here. A large population of alligators and furbearers such as nutria and raccoon are also found on the refuge. Endangered species reported on the refuge include bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and Louisiana black bears. Several hundred thousand ducks and geese use the refuge as wintering habitat while wood ducks, fulvous and black-bellied whistling ducks, and mottled ducks nest on the refuge during the breeding season. Recreational opportunities for refuge visitors abound! The refuge offers fishing, hunting, boating, wildlife observation, and hiking. <P>Lacassine NWR, known for attracting thousands of pintails each winter (a peak of 300,000), has also seen the effects of the decreasing populations. The refuge hosted numbers well over 100,000 until the mid-1980's then saw the peaks reduced by half in the 1990's. The last three drought years have seen the peaks decline from 30,000 down to around 18,000. The birds still concentrate in the northwest and northeast sections of the Pool. <P>
During the winter months, the refuge supports peak populations of over 300,000 ducks and geese. Large wintering concentrations of white-fronted and snow geese can be found here. Pintail, blue-winged and green-winged teal, mallards, ring-necked ducks, gadwalls, and American wigeon are common on the refuge during the winter months. Breeding populations of black-bellied whistling-ducks, wood ducks, and blue-winged teal are found on the refuge during the summer months.
A variety of wading birds are common on the refuge, particularly during the breeding season. One of the only roseate spoonbill nesting rookeries in Louisiana is located in Lacassine Pool, a 16,000 acre freshwater impoundment found on the refuge. Other common marsh and water birds include neotropic cormorants; anhingas; great blue, tricolored, and little blue herons; great and snowy egrets; black-crowned and yellow-crowned night herons; white and white-faced ibises; king rails; American coots; common moorhens; purple gallinules; and black-necked stilts. A complete refuge bird list is available online or in brochure format.
The refuge also provides suitable habitat for armadillos, swamp rabbits, fox squirrel, nutria, mink, otters, raccoons, coyotes, white-tailed deer, and a large population of American alligators. Numerous fish, frog, turtle, and snake species can also be found on the refuge.
The Louisiana coastal marshes occupy over four million acres in a continuous band which extends from the Mississippi state line on the east to the Texas state line on the west. The western portion of the area is known as the Chenier Plain, which is bordered on the north by the Pleistocene Prairie formation, also known as the ricebelt in southwestern Louisiana. Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is located in the Cameron and Evangeline Parishes and straddles the border of the Pleistocene Prairie and the Chenier Plain marshes. The refuge is bisected by the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and Bayou Lacassine and is bordered on the east by the Mermentau River and on the west by the Bell City Drainage Ditch. The southern border of the refuge is formed by Lake Misere, Bayou Misere, Mud Lake, and Grand Lake.
The vegetative types occuring on the refuge are primarily water tolerant grasses, sedges, and shrubs. The types vary according to frequency, depth, and length of time water covers the area. Vegetation in the undeveloped marshes is dominated by bulltongue. Vegetation in Lacassine Pool, a 16,000 acre freshwater impoundment, consists primarily of bulltongue, maidencane, watershield, waterlily, spikerush, and southern bullrush.
Lacassine NWR is managed extensively for waterfowl and other Louisiana coastal wetland species. The refuge manipulates water levels to manage for naturally occuring marsh and moist soil plants and plants crops to provide food for wintering waterfowl that migrate down the Mississippi and Central flyways. Prescribed burning is utilized to invigorate native coastal prairie grass and forb growth and also to reduce the fuel load and organic accumulation in the marshes.
The refuge is also in the process of restoring coastal prairie habitat. Coastal prairie is a type of tallgrass prairie, similar to the tallgrass prairie of the midwest U.S. This ecosystem once extended from Corpus Christi, TX to its eastern limit at the margin of pine savanna along a north south line running from Opelousas to Lafayette, LA. In pre-settlement times, the coastal prairie was estimated to have encompassed as much as nine million acres of land. Today, substantially less than one percent of the coastal prairie remains in a relatively undisturbed condition. The remaining 99.9 percent has been nearly eliminated by agriculture. Refuge staff have conducted several small prairie restorations on the refuge in Cameron Parish and are in the process of restoring a 350 acre refuge tract in Evangeline Parish.