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

After 20 years of traditional Bayou-Diversity radio programs, I am wandering into the realm of prose poetry.  Here's a couple for your consideration:

  • "Troubling Time"
  • "Notes on Albert near Brookhaven, Mississippi: August 22, 1979"

    

  Lest you think French influence on our state is restricted to the southern half, consider the sinuous streams of northeast Louisiana.  They flow through our geography with Franco-laden labels both pure and bastardized - and with good reason.  Frenchmen were the first to establish a lasting presence.  They were not Acadians.They plied every major stream in northeast Louisiana.  They put their names on nearly all of them.

Turkey Vulture
K Schnelder / Flickr.com

  Vultures get a bad rap.  At best they are thought of as nature's garbage men - not a bad label, by the way.  At worst they are considered dirty, disease carrying scavengers - not a true representation either. 

Vultures were once thought to be kin to birds of prey such as hawks and eagles, but recent DNA work has revealed a much closer tie to storks, and they are now placed in that family.

In the beginning there was mud, bayou mud, molding the ontogeny of the boy.  The summer of 1964 was the beginning for him, when he was thirteen and loosed upon the bayou and its swamp for the first time.  Rules were minimal.  Even the "be home by dark" decree was rescinded by autumn.  An intimacy with local geology started with the half-mile barefoot walk from home to the bayou.

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

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