Monday, March 1, 2010

Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge

I was in Pascagoula MS a few weeks back, which entailed a nice drive across the coast from New Orleans. After leaving my appointment, I was lured off the highway by a sign. Who knew there needed to be a refuge for them? Sandhill cranes live on wet savannas that are not good for much else - or wasn't until timber companies began buying up land in the '50's to plant pines. By 1973 with the passage of the Endangered Species act, there were less than 40 cranes, and this was the first refuge established under that law. So did I get to see a crane? Not a live one, just the stuffed ones in the exhibit. Cranes lay eggs days apart, and the first hatched chick usually kills any siblings. Now, the biologists monitor the nests and just leave one egg to hatch. The others are taken to form a captive breeding flock. For the past 30 years, offspring have been released so that there are now about 100 birds in the wild and 25 breeding pairs. Amazing. So the next time you happen to pass through Gautier MS, stop at the visitors center, check out the exhibit, and leave the nice folks there a few bucks.

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