Sandhill Crane Refuge celebrates 40th anniversary - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Sandhill Crane Refuge celebrates 40th anniversary

In 1975, the federal government established the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo source: WLOX) In 1975, the federal government established the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo source: WLOX)
GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) -

In 1975, the federal government established the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge. The more than 19,000-acre refuge preserves what is called a wet savanna habitat, a natural environment found exclusively in this part of the country.

The Mississippi sandhill crane calls this ecosystem home. Forty years ago, scientists realized the bird was in dire straits.

"Some biologists were called in, and they realized that there were only about 30 of the birds in the wild. That's what prompted the establishment of the refuge. It was one of the first established after the endangered species act was passed the year before," according to refuge Ranger Melissa Perez. 

Because of management efforts, 125 of the rare birds can be found at the refuge. The sandhill crane and the land were both being threatened by the march of progress.

"Over time, as this area, which is a beautiful place to live, more and more people moved in and the habitat began to get depleted," Perez said.

People can enjoy walking trails that reveal plant life and wildlife indigenous to coastal Mississippi. A visitor's center features exhibits designed to tell the story of the Mississippi sandhill crane.  

This conservation effort goes beyond just the crane. In the big picture, the mission is to preserve the environment for  future generations.

"We want to protect and preserve the wet savanna and the Mississippi sandhill crane and all the wildlife in South Mississippi so our children and grandchildren can grow up loving this wilderness we grew up in," said Perez.

The center will host a big anniversary event Saturday, Dec. 5, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Copyright 2015 WLOX. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly