Flooding forces deer to high ground, creates driving hazard

Published 10:22 am Thursday, March 27, 2008

GREENVILLE (AP) — Authorities say drivers should use extra caution as the rising Mississippi River forces deer and other wildlife to seek higher ground.

Many of the deer, opossums and armadillos could cross roads and create safety hazards for drivers.

Washington County Sheriff’s Department Assistant Chief Deputy Billy Barber said Wednesday there had already been at least two deer hit by cars.

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Deer don’t often move during the middle of the day, but that all changes when flooding forces them out of their preferred habitat. The deer are headed east from the levee into populated areas around Greenville and many have crossed U.S. 82.

“At this point, we can’t pinpoint a particular time of day that they will move,” Barber said. “As the water continues to rise, I’m sure we’ll be getting more and more calls. They’re going to come through the populated areas.”

The National Weather Service’s Lower Mississippi Forecast Center says the river at the Greenville already is above 49.3 feet, more than a foot over flood stage. More water is coming.

The river is expected to crest at the Greenville gauge at 52 feet on April 2.

Throughout the Delta, officials are preparing. Washington County Emergency Management director David Burford and his staff have been recording the global position of houses on Lake Ferguson so they’ll know where the homes can be found with GPS devices if they go underwater.

With the river expected to crest above flood stage in many river counties in the next week, flooding levels should be similar to 2002. That was the last time the river reached this high, affecting mostly low-lying farmland and roads.