Kelby Ouchley

Kelby was a biologist and manager of National Wildlife Refuges for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for more than 30 years. He has worked with alligators in gulf coast marshes and Canada geese on Hudson Bay tundra. His most recent project was working with his brother Keith of the Louisiana Nature Conservancy on the largest floodplain restoration project in the Mississippi River Basin at the Mollicy Unit of the Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge, reconnecting twenty-five square miles of former floodplain forest back to the Ouachita River.

Kelby was instrumental in the the establishment of Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge and its development as a premier environmental education site. Kelby has an undergraduate degree in Wildlife Biology and a graduate degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science from Texas A&M University.

In 2011 he collected his essays that have aired on KEDM into the book Bayou-Diversity: Nature and People in the Louisiana Bayou Country. He is also the author of Flora and Fauna of the Civil War: an Environmental Reference Guide, Iron Branch: A Civil War Tale of a Woman In BetweenAmerican Alligator – Ancient Predator in the Modern World as well as many scientific and popular articles. Among other honors Kelby recently received the National Wildlife Federation Governor's Conservationist of the Year Award.

He and his wife Amy live in the woods near Rocky Branch, Louisiana, in a cypress house surrounded by white oaks and black hickories. Kelby's website is bayou-diversity.com.

Ways to Connect

As a boy, I never looked forward to hay-cutting time.  It seemed to be scheduled for the hottest days of summer and stacking the bales in a low, tin-roofed barn aggravated the situation. 

Blistering spears of profanity were sometimes launched by the driver of the hay cutting tractor, and were triggered by a small, bare-tailed mammal with buck teeth that was derisively called a 'damn salamander.'

World Heritage Sites are places deemed by the United Nations to have cultural or natural significance on a global scale.  Poverty Point, a prehistoric cultural site of exceptional merit in West Carroll Parish, was recently added to the sparse list of those in the United States that includes the likes of Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Parks.

In the midst of the Civil War, Kate Stone, a fierce advocate of the southern cause, wrote from a plantation near Tallulah, "The plums and sassafras are in full bloom and the whole yard is fragrant.  We all drank sassafras tea for a while, but soon got tired of it, pretty and pink as it is."  At the same time the infamous Yankee General Benjamin Butler was enjoying the delights of genuine New Orleans gumbos during his occupation of that city.  His meals were surely spiced with dried, powdered sassafras leaves known as file.

"Mr. Elliott, the aeronaut, has attempted to make an ascension in New Orleans, but the wind proved to be too strong.  After seating himself in his balloon, and cutting loose, he was swept violently across the arena, knocking down several persons in his passage."

A saddled horse standing beside a giant eastern cottonwood is the subject of a nitrate-based cellulose negative. It was given to me by the man who took the shot in 1938 while prowling about for ivory-billed woodpeckers in Louisiana's vast Tensas Swamp. 

The tree appears to be nearly as wide as James Tanner's sorrel gelding is long.

One wild animal in the bayou state is singularly unique among our native fauna.  It has more teeth than any Louisiana land mammal and is even known to fake its own death when threatened.  Correctly labeled the Virginia opossum, we all know them simply as possums.

Source:  The Mammals of Louisiana and its Adjacent Waters

I have boyhood memories of motoring with my parents along a stretch of arrow-straight, asphalt highway as it passed through a vast and seemingly desolate swamp in north Louisiana.  Understory palmetto fronds lent a tropical ambience and obscured the ground under the tall, dark trees.  The road was an incision in the forested canopy.

One of the most under-appreciated native trees in Louisiana grows in every parish, is important to wildlife, and has a fascinating local history. During the Autumn it is one of our most colorful trees as leaves on the same tree may be purple, burgundy, orange and yellow.

  (adapted from Flora and Fauna of the Civil War by Kelby Ouchley, LSU Press)

The Druids thought it peculiar also. As you are traveling around the next few days, scan the tops of the leafless hardwood trees and look for the dark green clumps of mistletoe. Now contemplate just how they cam about growing in the loftiest boughs of our tallest oaks.

    

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