Right now it’s wide open spaces, but when Alison Sharpe walks the property, she sees an education center and huge, federally approved flight cages for birds of prey, especially eagles.
The property is a new home for the Wildlife Care and Rescue Center — three acres north of Moss Point off Mississippi 613.
Sharpe is the director of WCRC, the oldest and most fully permitted wildlife rescue group on the Coast. She and her team have been taking in and rehabilitating woodland animals and birds since 1994.
The center had a home in Woolmarket before Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but lost it to the storm. And like other wildlife rehabs, it relies heavily on its volunteer staff to keep animals in their homes or backyards.
A lot of that is about to change. There’s still some fundraising to do, but the new location is a major step in the right direction. Room to grow. And there’s a special need for the flight cages that three acres can accommodate.
Out of anticipation, Sharpe and her staff have marked off an area on the property for the first eagle flight cage.
After all, more bald eagles are coming to the center from around South Mississippi, said WCRC’s Randy Hines. They have had more eagles in the last six years than in the previous 12.
They come to the wildlife center with different injuries. Instead of having to ship them to Florida for the final leg of rehabilitation, Sharpe and her workers will be able to finish their care in the flight cages. They just took in a new female bald eagle last week.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requires cage specifications for anyone to keep and maintain eagles during rehabilitation.
The first cage at WCRC is expected to cost $20,000. The center is raising the money to pay for one that is 120 by 20 feet and federally approved for eagles. It also will accommodate osprey and peregrine falcons. There is an assortment of hawks and owls that come in with wing injuries as well.
They use the cages to rebuild muscles once it’s clear an eagle is going to survive, Sharpe explained.
But the crew is already building on the land. They constructed a special cage for a bobcat. He is being acclimated to the outdoors again after recovering from a severe head injury.
“It’s beautiful property out here,” Sharpe told the Sun Herald. “It’s really quiet and not too far off the beaten path, but far enough inland to avoid the worst of storms.”
They serve all six counties in South Mississippi. There will be room to grow.
The center is located now near the Jackson County Animal Shelter in Gautier. They have an intake office and place to weigh animals and train volunteers. It is a double-wide trailer donated by the city on land leased to them by the county.
The acreage will be the extension.
“The property is an absolute godsend,” she said. “It brings tears to my eyes when I go out to look at it.”
“I can’t even express the gratitude and excitement. This is one thing we have been limited in, a place to build the big flight cages,” Sharpe said. “This has allowed us to expand on what we have done for so many years.
“I can already envision what’s going to happen in the next several months, as we grow and move out here. It just doesn’t look like much now.”
Wildlife Care and Rescue Center
- What: Training for new volunteers
- When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 11
- Where: Mississippi Sandhill National Wildlife Refuge, Visitor Center, 7200 Crane Lane, Gautier
- Why: Baby season in approaching when so many baby squirrels, bunnies and birds come into the rescue center.
- Call for reservations: 669-2737
- See them at wildlifecareandrescuecenter.org or facebook.com/MSWCRC