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National Wildlife Refuge will close to hunting

Associated Press

NATCHEZ, Miss. - St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge in southwest Mississippi will close to hunting two hours after sunset Saturday.

Refuge Manager Randy Breland made the decision Thursday to close the refuge due to flooding from the Mississippi River.

Between 1,000 and 1,200 hunting and fishing permits have been sold so far this year at the refuge.

The area sees between 100 to 200 hunters on any given weekend during hunting season, Assistant St. Catherine Refuge Manager Steven Brock said.

Brock said the lack of a levee system on the river's edge makes natural backwater flooding an annual problem for the refuge but it usually occurs a month later, as deer season is winding down.

When the refuge floods 16,000 acres of open land become 4,000 sending all the deer, and therefore all the hunters, into a smaller area. The 4,000 acres are on the bluffs.

"It creates a safety hazard, concentrating all the hunters into that area," Brock said. "And concentrating the deer gives potential for an over harvest."

Brock said he hoped the closing will not last long.

"Hopefully it will be very short lived," he said. "I don't have any idea how long it will last."

Once the water recedes the refuge will reopen, he said.

Deer season runs until Jan. 8 at the refuge.

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