|For those vacationers without the time or money it takes to safari in Africa or an equally distant place the US Fish & Wildlife Services (FWS) suggests traveling to one of the national wildlife refuges in North America.
Sleigh rides amidst thousands of elk wintering in Wyoming, trolley tours of bison roaming newly restored prairie in Colorado, a drive along lakes and marshes in Florida catching sight of alligators--these are just some of the opportunities suggested by David Eisenhauer of the FWS for visitors who want to see charismatic wild animals in their natural habitat. A search of the Internet will reveal wildlife refuges in almost every state in the US.
The ones the FWS brags about
Horse-drawn sleigh rides (or wagon rides minus the snow) run daily from December 8, 2008 to April 1, 2009 at the National Elk Refuge near Jackson, WY and allow the visitor to catch a glimpse of the approximately 8,000 elk descending from the Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks and surrounding forest areas. For a virtual tour go here.
Elk also may be seen on the five-mile Tule Elk Tour Route open daylight hours year-round at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge near Los Banos, California.
The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, just 11 miles from downtown Denver, CO, offers two-hour wildlife viewing tours on a trolley bus of the bison, North America's heaviest animal, re-introduced to the refuge in 2007. The trolley that operates at 10 a.m. on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays requires pre-registration by phoning (303) 289-0930.
For nature photographers and others wanting to catch sight of elusive grey wolves the suggestion is to visit either the 61,500 acre Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge or the 42,724 acre Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, both in Minnesota. Of course, if the visitor isn't lucky than the plentiful white-tailed deer will be the only animal seen.
Aroostock County, Maine claims to have the densest population of moose and black bears in the lower 48 states with sightings quite common during May through September at the Aroostock National Wildlife Rufuge near Limestone. The refuge has about six miles of trails through wetlands, spruce-fir forests and northern hardwood forests.
Visitors to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Florida are able to see a plentiful number of alligators on the 6.8 mile wildlife drive that runs from the visitor center to the historic St. Marks lighthouse on Apalachee Bay or hiking the refuge's many trails.
Small game refuges we found in the 4-state region
- Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge - Mound City, MO, located within the Mississippi Flyway, is best known in the fall for its concentrations of snow geese, other waterfowl and bald eagles.
- Great River National Wildlife Refuge - Annada, MO was designated in 1998 as a globally important bird area due to its value to shorebirds, songbirds and waterfowl.
- Big Muddy National Fish & Wildlife Refuge - off I-70 in Missouri, MO is a growing area spread out as individual units along the Missouri River between Kansas City and St. Louis. It is of benefit to floodplain-dependent fish and wildlife species.
- Ozark Cavefish National Wildlife Refuge - Lawrence County protects the endangered cavefish by preventing human disturbance.
- Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge - Hartford, KS consists of 18,500 acres on the upstream portion of the John Redmond Reservoir and is dedicated to the preservation and conservation of all wildlife.
- Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge - southeastern Phillips County, KS lies in a transition zone between the tall and short grass prairies and is fed in part by the North Fork of the Solomon River. It attracts bird watchers.
- Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge - mountain/prairie region, KS has 7500 acres available for wildlife oriented recreation including hunting, fishing and birding.
- Quivira National Wildlife Refuge - Stafford, KS was named one of the eight wonders of Kansas, offering opportunities for wildlife observation and photography, hunting and fishing.
- Links to 11 Oklahoma national wildlife refuges may be found here. They include the Oklahoma Bat Caves National Wildlife Refuge that preserves the endangered Ozark big-eared bat and gray bat and is limited to approved studies under proper supervision.
- Links to 9 Arkansas national wildlife refuges may be found here. They include the Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge said to have been formed from the New Madrid earthquake of 1811-12.