Reelfoot Lake landmarks in danger of disappearing

Reelfoot Lake landmarks in danger of disappearing

OBION COUNTY, TN (KFVS) - Reelfoot Lake in Obion County, Tennessee is known as a premier fishing hole.

But one unique feature of the lake, the submerged cypress trees, are dying - and fast.

Mike Hayes, a Reelfoot resort owner and former commissioner with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission, knows just what the problem is.

"This whole area has been affected by these Cormorants," he said.

In the early 1900's the birds were killed off in high numbers. Many found them to be pests and competition for sport fish.

But under protection from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they've made a comeback.

"Over the last fifteen years, they multiplied by the thousands," Hayes said regarding the population at Reelfoot Lake.

That's creating new problems for submerged Cypress trees there.

When the birds nest or sit in the trees, their acidic droppings coat the leaves and branches and eventually kill the entire tree.

"Once they kill a big group of trees, they'll move to a new place to roost," Hayes said. "There's not a natural prey that goes after them."

Some Cypress trees in the lake are 200 to 600 years old.

They were there before the lake formed after the 1811-1812 New Madrid Earthquakes. The quakes temporarily reversed the flow of the Mississippi River. Water backed up and eventually overflowed into the area that now forms Reelfoot Lake.

Many, including Hayes, see the Cypressess as part of the landscape.

"There's a lot of good fisheries across the state of Tennessee but there's none that has the beauty this one has," Hayes said.

That's why he's hoping state or federal leaders will step in and take action.

"Lots of places across the country, they've been issued permits to be able to shoot and protect the resource," he said. "Or at least relocate the birds."

Hayes said he's tried to contact wildlife protection officials, but hasn't had any luck getting a response.

He said time may be running out.

"I just don't think it'd be Reelfoot without the trees growing out of the water."

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