Nestled in East Feliciana Parish, the LSU AgCenter Bob R. Jones-Idlewild Research Station sits on approximately 1,800 acres of pasture, hardwood and pine plantations.
The station’s history began as the John W. Grippen Idlewild Plantation, acquired in 1900. In 1940, the property was seized by the state and turned over to the Louisiana State Penitentiary. In 1956, the State Parks and Recreation Commission built the dam and overflow structure currently on the station. Also that year, the property was leased to LSU, and the Idlewild Research Station was established.
Glen Gentry, resident coordinator at the station, said some of the early research involved horticulture, fruit trees, variety development and forestry. Some of the specific fruit varieties included peach, crabapple, mayhaw, pear, apple and plum.
Through the years the research focus has changed to wildlife management. To reflect this, the station’s name was changed in 2007 to the Bob R. Jones-Idlewild Research Station, memorializing a local landowner and outdoorsman who was instrumental in the original establishment of the station.
In 2015, the Bob R. Jones Wildlife Research Institute was established on the station, and the research on wildlife and habitat management was expanded. The institute is governed by a board of directors, including people from the LSU AgCenter and the local community.
In 2018, the station began hosting a wildlife expo to provide information and fun for the community. Other organizers of the event included the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the East Feliciana Tourist Commission. The first two years of the event saw a total of nearly 1,200 participants. In 2020, the event was suspended because of the pandemic.
Speakers discussed a range of topics, including invasive species, wildlife food plots, the Louisiana black bear, native plants and Louisiana snakes. For the kids, there was archery and other shooting sports activities.
In recent years, feral pig eradication has become a major research area at the station. Gentry said feral hogs have become the No. 1 nuisance animal in Louisiana, resulting in a negative economic impact of more than $70 million annually in the state, which he says is a conservative estimate.
Other research being conducted at the station includes a captive and native deer herd.
“A main focus of this research is improved genetics and epidemiology of vector-borne pathogens,” Gentry said. “The research station setting also allows for research on other wildlife including ground-nesting birds.”
In addition to animal research, work is also being done to control the aquatic weed giant salvinia, which has become an economic issue in Louisiana, clogging lakes and lowering property values. Efforts also are underway to control invasive species such as Chinese privet and Chinese tallow trees.
Gentry said current research with the captive deer herds includes improving artificial insemination techniques, vaccine development for epizootic viral diseases and improved animal husbandry.
“Each year, experiments are conducted to foster genetic improvement through improved pregnancy rates following artificial insemination,” Gentry said.
LSU AgCenter entomologist Lane Foil has studies underway to determine the transmission of insect-borne viruses that result in hemorrhagic disease in both deer and cattle. Much of the research has been supported by a grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Hemorrhagic disease is the most important infectious disease of white-tailed deer in the Southeast United States,” Foil said. “This disease is caused by two related viruses, epizootic hemorrhagic disease or bluetongue virus.”
It is thought that these viruses are spread through biting midges and when white-tails become infected, it is in most cases fatal. These types of diseases have detrimental effects in both captive and native white-tail populations across the United States. The role of cattle as reservoirs of these pathogens also is a topic of the research project.
One recent result of the LSU AgCenter research effort was the development of a protocol that allows the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to collect bone marrow from deer carcasses found on the landscape. Once analyzed, scientists can determine if hemorrhagic disease was the culprit.
Johnny Morgan is a communications specialist with LSU AgCenter Communications.
(This article appears in the fall 2021 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)
Research is conducted at the Bob R. Jones-Idlewild Research Station, Clinton, Louisiana, on both native and captive deer. Photo by Olivia McClure