Turtles need rescuing, too
Central Mississippi Turtle Rescue is run by Florence residents Luke and Christy Milbourne. The group nurses injured and sick turtles back to health before returning them to the wild.
For more than a decade, Christy Milbourne and husband Luke have spoken up for those that have no voice.
They speak for injured turtles, an all-too-often target of motorists.
The Milbournes received a shot in the arm this August when their Florence-based Central Mississippi Turtle Rescue received a zoning exception from the Rankin County Board of Supervisors that will allow the organization to file for 501©3 non-profit status.
For the last three years, the Milbournes have funded their rehabilitation projects, which are certified by the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. By the spring, the Milbournes hope the organization will be able to raise money and apply for grants as a nonprofit.
Their mission to help turtles started in 2006, when a neighbor rescued a turtle from a burn pile.
“The poor fella was almost lit,” Christy Milbourne said. “He only had three legs, and we decided to keep him. It kind of bloomed from there.”
Christy Milbourne joined the internet community Turtle Forums, where she said she’s met people from all over the country that she now considers some of her closest friends.
“I’ve always loved turtles,” she said. “I see them as a peaceful creature, slow moving and introverted, sort of like me. I’m a stay-in-your-shell kind of person.”
Central Mississippi Turtle Rescue responds to notices of injured turtles and works to rehabilitate them back into the wild at a backyard facility or by working with other agencies, like Jackson’s Mississippi Wildlife Rescue and Vancleave’s Wild At Heart Rescue.
Wild at Heart’s Dr. James Askew is helping rehabilitate a 60-pound snapping turtle named Tred that was spotted near a roadway in Rankin County.
“We’ve got to understand the plight of the animals and how they’re in decline in the wild,” Milbourne said. “It’s not ‘just a turtle.’ It thinks, it feels, and it experiences pain. »
Mississippi is home to 11 types of endangered or threatened species of turtle, including all four native sea turtles and the gopher tortoise.
The gopher tortoise is considered a “keystone species” by conservationists because its presence affects many other species. The underground burrows made by the tortoise will be used by 350 other species, according to Kathy Shelton, a state conservation specialist in south Mississippi.
‘If you manage the habitat properly, it’s not just one species,” Shelton said. “Turtles are important because they help keep fish populations under control.”
As the months begin to get cooler, many turtles are out sunning themselves to gain energy for the winter. Often, that occurs near the road.
“Box turtles are often hit by cars while crossing the road,” Shelton said. “For some reason, people often think they are targets and will swerve to hit them.”
In the Jackson metro area, Milbourne said residents near Brandon’s Crossgates lake region should be on the look-out for turtles in distress.
« They’re still doing a lot of construction, and there are a lot of stranded turtles out there,” Milbourne said.
Shelton noted that turtles are very territorial creatures, if you move them, they will attempt to return to their location. She recommended that if you see a turtle in the road, pick it up and move it to the other side in the direction it was heading.
“If they need medical help, give us a call,” Milbourne said.
Contact Jacob Threadgill at 601-961-7192 or email@example.com
To contact the organization, call 601-845-1932 or visit centralmsturtlerescue.com.