A mixture of high, mid-elevation and low tidal saltmarshes make up approximately fifty percent of Deer Island. Most of the remainder is Slash Pine maritime forest with smaller areas dominated by Live Oak. Other habitats include beach/dune, salt flats, and freshwater ponds/marshes. The primary uses of the site include camping and fishing.
The island has several Native American archaeological sites dating back as early as 8,000 B.C. The highest point on the island is a Native American burial mound. Artifacts have been found from four major periods of Native American history: Paleo-Indian, Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian. The island was occupied by European settlers and their descendants from the early 1700s until Hurricane Camille in 1969.
The island should have numbers of neotropical migrants comparable to the state?s other offshore islands, but there are no quantitative data that could be located. Large numbers of gulls, terns, and shorebirds frequent the island's sandy spits and forage along the shore and in the waters. Two small heron rookeries have been active for many years. Species include Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, and Green Heron. Number of breeding pairs probably less than 100. The island is designated as critical wintering habitat for the Piping Plover (Unit MS-12).
The most immediate threat to the island is erosion of the south shore due to periodic storms. The island has lost nearly 300 acres to erosion in the past 100 years. Non-native species include Wild Hogs, Chinese Tallow, and Japanese Cogon Grass. Wild hogs damage the marsh with their rooting and probably have a significant negative impact on ground-nesting species. The island's close proximity to the mainland opens the opportunity to excessive public use which could negatively impact native vegetation and wildlife.
The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources is working with various partners to restore tidal marsh and other native habitats. Efforts are continuing by the state to acquire the remaining privately-owned acres.
A mixture of high, mid-elevation and low tidal saltmarshes make up approximately fifty percent of Deer Island. Most of the remainder is Slash Pine maritime forest with smaller areas dominated by Live Oak. Other habitats include beach/dune, salt flats, and freshwater ponds/marshes.
Tourism for fishing and camping is an important use of Deer Island. Ornithological research has been conducted on Clapper Rails on the island. General conservation of natural areas is an important use of the island.