Mississippi Sandhill Crane
National Wildlife Refuge
Fragile Habitat Protecting Endangered Cranes
Being Closely Monitored
In 1975, under authority of the Endangered Species Act, the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge was established to protect the critically endangered Mississippi sandhill cranes and their unique (also endangered) wet pine savanna habitat. Nineteen thousand acres were set aside.
Mississippi sandhills are a non-migratory subspecies of the sandhill crane, and only 35 individuals remained on the Gulf coast when this refuge was established. Today, that number has swelled to roughly 120 cranes, but the Mississippi sandhill crane is still at risk of extinction – and is under new threats from the BP oil spill.
At present, only 5% or less of the original savanna habitat that once supported the cranes remains on the Gulf Coastal Plain. For this reason, Mississippi sandhill cranes now occur only on the refuge named for them and adjacent private lands in the vicinity of the refuge.
The refuge also protects and restores these last large expanses of wet pine savanna, primarily through the use of prescribed fire. The wet pine savanna is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the U.S. with more than 30 plants found in a square meter of land.
Refuge staff and interns are maintaining a vigilant watch on the refuge and have been active participants in the oil clean up efforts.