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    Fond Memories and Permanent Protection for Wildlands in Mississippi

    “The minute we saw the live oaks draped in moss and the seven-acre lake we knew this land was home to a wide variety of wildlife, and we fell in love with it,” says Merry Caplan of the 207-acre property that she and her husband Ryck Caplan formerly owned in Tylertown, Mississippi. Though they now live elsewhere, they fondly remember the land and wildlife. “We loved walking the trails and spotting different animal tracks,” says Merry, “and going for a swim in the river and watching the sunset after a hot day.”

    Merry describes her memories of the wildlife as “a natural collage” of sights and sounds, “... the mixed tracks along the trails, several species feeding together in the pasture, hawks and vultures weaving threads through the air, the solos of the birds at sunset turning into a chorus of frogs at night, the rabbits and mice making nests in the hay in the barn, shadows of bobcats, foxes, and coyotes slipping through the underbrush along the wooded edges.”

    The Caplans enhanced the habitat for wildlife by planting native trees and bushes, adding nest boxes for wood ducks and blue birds and roosting boxes for bats, and creating rock piles for cover, nests, or dens. “Over the years we began to see more wildlife, both in numbers and in variety of species,” Merry recalls, especially during the hunting season, “so we planted more native species to help them at that time of year.”

    “Watching for the migratory birds’ arrival became a seasonal ritual,” says Merry, “especially when the northern migratory flyway moved west from the Everglades in Florida, which increased the number of birds stopping to use our protected ponds and fields.” Surrounding properties are being converted from habitat to other uses, yet another reason the land the Caplans protected is increasingly important for the area’s wildlife.

    The Caplans placed a conservation easement on the property with HSWLT in 2008, permanently protecting both the land and the wildlife. “It gives us a sense of pride knowing the animals have a place of sanctuary,” says Merry, “and at least one oasis where they do not have to live in fear of humans.”

    “HSWLT was very supportive of our desire to not allow hunting, pesticide use, timbering, or development,” says Merry. “And, while their primary goal is to protect the land and wildlife, they understand and respect the need to protect the financial interests of the landowner. When we sold our land, we were able to maintain a marketable property, benefit from tax deductions, and protect the land and wildlife. We now have a deep satisfaction and peace of mind, knowing we have made a meaningful contribution to the protection of wildlife, biodiversity, and the dwindling resource of wild lands.”

    Gray Fox Close-Up

    Gray foxes are small, secretive members of the dog family (canines), and the only member of that family that can climb trees.


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