Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

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Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
IUCN category IV (habitat/species management area)
Coreopsis, Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.jpg
Spring wildflowers in the refuge
Map showing the location of Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
Map showing the location of Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
Location Comanche County, Oklahoma, USA
Nearest city Lawton
Coordinates 34°46′00″N 98°42′01″W / 34.76667°N 98.70028°W / 34.76667; -98.70028Coordinates: 34°46′00″N 98°42′01″W / 34.76667°N 98.70028°W / 34.76667; -98.70028
Area 59,020 acres (23,880 ha)
Established 1901
Governing body United States Fish and Wildlife Service

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, located in southwestern Oklahoma near Lawton, has protected unique wildlife habitats since 1901 and is the oldest managed wildlife facility in the United States Fish and Wildlife Service system.[1] Measuring about 59,020 acres (238.8 km2), the Refuge hosts a great diversity of species: 806 plant species, 240 species of birds, 36 fish, and 64 reptiles and amphibians are present. The refuge's location in the geologically unique Wichita Mountains and its areas of undisturbed mixed grass prairie make it an important conservation area. The Wichitas are approximately 500 million years old.[2][3]

Longhorn cattle in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
Black-tailed Prairie Dog
Buffalo calf, WMWR

Fauna[edit]

Several species of large native mammals make their home at the refuge: Plains Bison, also known as the American buffalo, elk, white-tailed deer graze the prairies along with Texas longhorn cattle preserved for their cultural and historic importance. Bison, longhorns, and elk were introduced after the establishment of the refuge. Merriam's Elk, the original subspecies of elk in this area, is extinct, so the elk in the refuge are Rocky Mountain Elk. The ancestors of the herd were imported from Jackson Hole, Wyoming in 1911.[4] The elk herd now numbers about 800 and white tailed deer about 450. Many smaller mammal species also live in the refuge, including the Nine-banded Armadillo and the Black-tailed Prairie Dog.

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge was important in saving the American buffalo from extinction. In 1907 the American Bison Society transported 15 buffalo, six bulls and nine cows, from the New York Zoological Park to the refuge. On arrival, the Comanche leader Quanah Parker and a host of other Indians and Whites turned out to welcome the buffalo. At that time, buffalo had been extinct on the southern Great Plains for 30 years. The buffalo herd now numbers about 650 on the refuge. In fall, buffalo in excess of the carrying capacity of the refuge are rounded up and sold.[5]

The Refuge is home to many species of birds, and it is one of the remaining homes of the endangered Black-capped Vireo.

Flora[edit]

The refuge is ecologically diverse, with prairie, ravine, and mountain plant communities. Portions of the refuge contain scrubby forest of mixed oak varieties. A disjunct population of bigtooth maple is found here, 400 miles (640 km) from the nearest natural population in West Texas.[6]

Recreation[edit]

There is no admission charge. Public use areas on the Refuge total 22,400 acres. The remaining 37,000 acres is closed to the public and for the exclusive use of wildlife although guided tours are scheduled.[7] A visitor center and bookstore, open seven days a week, except on some holidays, displays art and has exhibits illustrating the four major habitats found on the Refuge: Rocklands, Aquatic, Mixed-Grass Prairie, and Cross Timbers.[8]

The Refuge is a popular destination for recreational activities. Rock climbing is overwhelmingly popular, but visitors also enjoy hiking, camping, fishing, bird and wildlife watching, and photography. The refuge has an extensive trail system, including about 15 miles of official trails and unofficial trails. Many of these trails lead to climbing routes. The area became popular for rock climbing beginning in the 60s and 70s, and has become something of a regional mecca. Though climbing has brought many visitors to the Refuge, some controversy exists over the use of fixed anchors, bolts and other permanently placed objects on the rock face. The Refuge has joined with The Access Fund and the Wichita Mountains Climbers Coalition to promote responsible use of the Wichitas' resources.[9] Rock climbing routes are found on Mt. Scott, the Refuge's second highest summit, as well as areas such as the Narrows and the Charon Gardens Wilderness Area.[10]

Fishing for largemouth bass, sunfish, crappie, and channel catfish is popular in the thirteen artificial lakes on the refuge.[11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23] Elk and deer hunting, to cull excessive numbers, is permitted in a managed hunt every fall. Hunters are chosen by lottery and a fee is charged. A narrow winding road leads to the summit of Mount Scott, elevation 2,464 feet (751m), with a view that encompasses the whole refuge. Although the mountains rise only 800 to 1000 feet above the surrounding prairie they are steep and rocky. The highest mountain in the refuge is Mount Pinchot which rises to 2,479 feet (756m).[24][25] Mount Pinchot was named in honor of Gifford Pinchot who served as the first Chief of the United States Forest Service.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions - Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge". Fws.gov. 2010-04-08. Retrieved 2011-10-14. 
  2. ^ "Refuge History - Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge". Fws.gov. 2010-04-08. Retrieved 2011-10-14. 
  3. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
  4. ^ Ellenbrook, Edward Charles. Outdoor and Trail Guide to the Wichita Mountains of Southwest Oklahoma Lawton, OK: In-the-Valley-of-the-Wichitas House, ISBN 978-0941634014, 1994 revised edition, p 18
  5. ^ Bison History Accessed Dec 3, 2010
  6. ^ Eskew, Cletis (November 1938). "The Flowering Plants of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge". The American Midland Naturalist (American Midland Naturalist, Vol. 20, No. 3) 20 (3): 695–703. doi:10.2307/2420302. JSTOR 2420302. 
  7. ^ Ellenbrook, pp. 9, 15
  8. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters
  9. ^ "Rock Climbing - Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge". Fws.gov. 2010-04-08. Retrieved 2011-10-14. 
  10. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Wichita Mountains Charons Garden Area
  11. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Burford Lake
  12. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Caddo Lake
  13. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Crater Lake
  14. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: French Lake
  15. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Grama Lake
  16. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Kiowa Lake
  17. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Lake Jed Johnson
  18. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Lake Rush
  19. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Lost Lake
  20. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Osage Lake
  21. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Post Oak Lake
  22. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Quanah Parker Lake
  23. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Treasure Lake
  24. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Wichita Mountains North Mountain Area
  25. ^ Ellenbrook, p. 9; http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/oklahoma/Wichitamountains/index.html, accessed Dec 3, 2010

External links[edit]