Controlled Burns Scheduled At Sandhill Crane Refuge

If you see smoke billowing out from the Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge in Gautier over the next few weeks, you can relax. It's not a wildfire. It's a controlled burn.

The refuge burns thousands of acres each year to restore the habitat for the cranes and reduce wildfires danger. For the next few weeks, wildlife biologist Scott Hereford says the refuge will burn up to 3,000 acres.

Despite the dry spring, Hereford says there's enough moisture to make sure the burns don't get out of hand.

"We did have an extended draught, but recently we've had up to 6 inches of rain, so right now the draught index is below average for this time of year. There's plenty of water out there, the soil moisture is pretty good. As long as we have good weather and high enough humidity we'll go ahead and burn. But we'll take each day and each department on a case by case basis," Hereford said.

Hereford says the refuge didn't start any burns Monday because of some weather problems. The last controlled burn on the refuge was in March.