A hint of fall touched the leaves in trees surrounding the swampy area traversed by Beaver Creek Road on Choctaw land in Neshoba County.
Mitzi Reed cruised along in her Jeep, keeping an eye out for invasive plants and wildlife. Reed is also on the lookout for her favorite critters, snakes, although she admits the weather is a bit cool for them to be out. Nevertheless, her eyes scan the swamp land adjacent to the Pearl River, just in case.
Reed is an invasive species coordinator for the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society. Biologist, conservationist and lover of the land describes her as well. Her goal is to preserve native species and resources on the land.
“My love for the land, for being outdoors … a lot of it had to do with my dad. He loved being outdoors. Hunting, fishing, just being in the woods, and I’d tag right along. I was like his “righthand man,” Reed says with a shrug of her shoulders and a big smile at the memory. “I got to where I loved it as well. I love animals, especially snakes,” said Reed, as she stepped off the road, scanning the ground covered in leaves. “It’s probably too cool out for them anyway, but you never know.”
“I was going to be a vet. My degree is in biology. Getting a job in Animal Control got my foot in the door. There was a Choctaw environmental program and (late) Chief (Phillip) Martin created a biologist position within the program. It opened the door for conservation-based research.”
“This area of the South is so diverse. Everything grows here. Everything thrives, and that includes invasive animals and plants. Take wild hogs for example. They eat anything and everything, and can destroy an area before moving on. What is left in their wake leaves nothing for native animals. So, they move on, too,” said Reed, holding a rabbit stick she carved.
The rabbit stick is a primitive hunting weapon made of hickory. Once a rabbit is chased from its hiding place, the rabbit stick is hurled at it. A powerful, stealthy and effective weapon.
“People are surprised to learn there are even feral horses about. And think about kudzu. Wherever you see it, it’s taking over, choking out native plants. My work encompasses all the tribes, sharing my knowledge to combat the invasion from all of it.”
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