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
Usa edcp relief location map.png
Red pog.svg
Location Comanche County, Oklahoma, United States
Nearest city Meers
Coordinates 34°46′N98°42′W / 34.767°N 98.700°W / 34.767; -98.700 Coordinates: 34°46′N98°42′W / 34.767°N 98.700°W / 34.767; -98.700
Area59,020 acres (238.8 km2)
Established1901
Governing body United States Fish and Wildlife Service
Website Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

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]

Oklahoma State of the United States of America

Oklahoma is a state in the South Central region of the United States, bordered by Kansas on the north, Missouri on the northeast, Arkansas on the east, Texas on the south, New Mexico on the west, and Colorado on the northwest. It is the 20th-most extensive and the 28th-most populous of the fifty United States. The state's name is derived from the Choctaw words okla and humma, meaning "red people". It is also known informally by its nickname, "The Sooner State", in reference to the non-Native settlers who staked their claims on land before the official opening date of lands in the western Oklahoma Territory or before the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889, which dramatically increased European-American settlement in the eastern Indian Territory. Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory were merged into the State of Oklahoma when it became the 46th state to enter the union on November 16, 1907. Its residents are known as Oklahomans, and its capital and largest city is Oklahoma City.

Lawton, Oklahoma City in Oklahoma

The city of Lawton is the county seat of Comanche County, in the State of Oklahoma. Located in southwestern Oklahoma, about 87 mi (140 km) southwest of Oklahoma City, it is the principal city of the Lawton, Oklahoma Metropolitan Statistical Area. According to the 2010 census, Lawton's population was 96,867, making it the fifth-largest city in the state.

United States Fish and Wildlife Service US Federal Government agency

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is an agency of the US Federal Government within the US Department of the Interior dedicated to the management of fish, wildlife, and natural habitats. The mission of the agency is "working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people."

Contents

History

The Wichita Forest Reserve was established by the General Land Office in Oklahoma on July 4, 1901 with 57,120 acres (231.2 km2). After the transfer of federal forests to the U.S. Forest Service in 1905, it became a National Forest on March 4, 1907 as Wichita National Forest. On November 27, 1936 the forest was abolished [4] and transferred to the Bureau of Biological Survey, a precursor to the Fish and Wildlife Service. It was re-designated the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge (WMWR). [5]

General Land Office former agency of the US Department of the Interior

The General Land Office (GLO) was an independent agency of the United States government responsible for public domain lands in the United States. It was created in 1812 to take over functions previously conducted by the United States Department of the Treasury. Starting with the passage of the Land Ordinance of 1785, which created the Public Land Survey System, the Treasury Department had already overseen the survey of the "Northwest Territory", including what is now the state of Ohio.

United States National Forest classification of federal lands in the United States

National Forest is a classification of protected and managed federal lands in the United States. National Forests are largely forest and woodland areas owned collectively by the American people through the federal government, and managed by the United States Forest Service, a division of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Description

The WMWR is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. There are 13 small lakes within the reserve. [6]

Fauna

Black-tailed prairie dog Black-tailed Prairie Dog-Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge-1.jpg
Black-tailed prairie dog


According to the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 240 species of birds, 50 species of mammals, 64 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 36 species of fish have been documented. [7]

Bison with vegetation around French Lake Buffalo and French Lake.jpg
Bison with vegetation around French Lake

Several species of large native mammals make their home at the refuge: plains bison, also known as the American bison, 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. [8] The elk herd now numbers about 800 and white tailed deer about 450. These big game species are no longer considered "endangered." [9] Many smaller mammal species also live in the refuge, including the nine-banded armadillo and the black-tailed prairie dog. Other species that have been reintroduced include: the river otter, burrowing owls and the prairie dog. Although these species were not listed as "endangered," USFWS policy is to assure that species that once were native to these mountains would always be found there. [9] According to the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, the refuge failed in its attempt to reintroduce the American pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, and the prairie chicken. [10]

Plains bison subspecies of even-toed ungulates

The Plains bison is one of two subspecies/ecotypes of the American bison, the other being the wood bison. A natural population of Plains bison survives in Yellowstone National Park and multiple smaller reintroduced herds of bison in many places in Canada and the United States.

Elk Large antlered species of deer from North America and east Asia

The elk or wapiti is one of the largest species within the deer family, Cervidae, and one of the largest terrestrial mammals in North America and Northeast Asia. This animal should not be confused with the still larger moose to which the name "elk" applies in British English and in reference to populations in Eurasia.

White-tailed deer species of mammal

The white-tailed deer, also known as the whitetail or Virginia deer, is a medium-sized deer native to the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, Ecuador, and South America as far south as Peru and Bolivia. It has also been introduced to New Zealand, Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, the Bahamas, the Lesser Antilles, and some countries in Europe, such as Finland, the Czech Republic, Romania and Serbia. In the Americas, it is the most widely distributed wild ungulate.

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge was important in saving the American buffalo from extinction. In 1907 the American Bison Society transported 15 bison, six bulls and nine cows, from the Bronx Zoo to the refuge. On arrival, the Comanche leader Quanah Parker and a host of other Indians and whites turned out to welcome the bison. At that time, bison had been extinct on the southern Great Plains for 30 years. The bison herd now numbers about 650 on the refuge. In fall, bison in excess of the carrying capacity of the refuge are rounded up and sold. [11]

Bronx Zoo Metropolitan zoo in the Bronx, New York City

The Bronx Zoo is a zoo located within Bronx Park in the Bronx, a borough of New York City. It is one of the largest zoos in the United States by area, comprising 265 acres (107 ha) of park lands and naturalistic habitats separated by the Bronx River. On average, the zoo has 2.15 million visitors each year as of 2009.

Comanche Plains native North American tribe whose historic territory consisted of eastern New Mexico, southeastern Colorado, southwestern Kansas, western Oklahoma, and northwest Texas

The Comanche are a Native American nation from the Great Plains whose historic territory consisted of most of present-day northwestern Texas and adjacent areas in eastern New Mexico, southeastern Colorado, southwestern Kansas, western Oklahoma, and northern Chihuahua. The Comanche people are federally recognized as the Comanche Nation, headquartered in Lawton, Oklahoma.

Quanah Parker Native American Indian leader

Quanah Parker was a war leader of the Quahadi ("Antelope") band of the Comanche Nation. He was born into the Nokoni ("Wanderers") band, the son of Comanche chief Peta Nocona and Cynthia Ann Parker, an Anglo-American, who had been kidnapped as a child and assimilated into the tribe. Following the apprehension of several Kiowa chiefs in 1871, Quanah emerged as a dominant figure in the Red River War, clashing repeatedly with Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie. With European-Americans deliberately hunting American bison, the Comanches' primary sustenance, into extinction, Quanah eventually surrendered and peaceably led the Quahadi to the reservation at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

The refuge is home to many species of birds, and it is one of the remaining homes of the recently delisted black-capped vireo.

Flora

The refuge is ecologically diverse, with prairie, ravine, and mountain plant communities. The many exposed granite boulders make exceptional habitat for a particularly photogenic, chartreuse green lichen known as "Pleopsidium flavum." [12] 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. [13]

Recreation

Bison calf, WMWR WMWR Buffalo.JPG
Bison calf, WMWR

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. [14] 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. [15]

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 1960s and 1970s, 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. [16] 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. [17]

Fishing for largemouth bass, sunfish, crappie, and channel catfish is popular in the thirteen artificial lakes on the refuge. [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] 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). [31] [32] Mount Pinchot was named in honor of Gifford Pinchot who served as the first Chief of the United States Forest Service.

Climate

Climate data for Wichita MTN WL REF, Oklahoma. (Elevation 1,665ft)
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Record high °F (°C)87
(31)
89
(32)
97
(36)
99
(37)
107
(42)
111
(44)
112
(44)
112
(44)
111
(44)
101
(38)
90
(32)
85
(29)
112
(44)
Average high °F (°C)51.3
(10.7)
56.1
(13.4)
64.8
(18.2)
74.2
(23.4)
81.0
(27.2)
89.2
(31.8)
94.6
(34.8)
94.5
(34.7)
86.3
(30.2)
75.7
(24.3)
62.7
(17.1)
52.5
(11.4)
73.6
(23.1)
Average low °F (°C)25.3
(−3.7)
29.3
(−1.5)
36.8
(2.7)
46.9
(8.3)
55.9
(13.3)
64.8
(18.2)
68.8
(20.4)
68.0
(20.0)
60.1
(15.6)
48.7
(9.3)
36.4
(2.4)
27.7
(−2.4)
47.4
(8.6)
Record low °F (°C)−16
(−27)
−11
(−24)
−6
(−21)
18
(−8)
29
(−2)
39
(4)
46
(8)
39
(4)
32
(0)
17
(−8)
6
(−14)
−12
(−24)
−16
(−27)
Average precipitation inches (mm)1.19
(30)
1.39
(35)
2.08
(53)
2.85
(72)
4.71
(120)
3.84
(98)
2.56
(65)
2.73
(69)
3.34
(85)
3.04
(77)
1.78
(45)
1.44
(37)
30.94
(786)
Average snowfall inches (cm)1.4
(3.6)
1.2
(3.0)
0.7
(1.8)
0.1
(0.25)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0.1
(0.25)
0.9
(2.3)
4.5
(11)
Source: The Western Regional Climate Center [33]

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References

  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. Davis, Richard C. (September 29, 2005), National Forests of the United States (pdf), The Forest History Society
  5. Candell, Harry B. "A Brief Refuge History". Wichita Wildlife Refuge. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  6. "Fishing on the Wichitas." U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. May 6, 2014 Accessed February 20, 2017.
  7. "Wichita Mountains: Wildlife & Habitat." July 11, 2012. Accessed February 19, 2017.
  8. 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
  9. 1 2 "Wichita Mountains: Refuge." September 29, 2014. Accessed February 19, 2017.
  10. O'Dell, Larry. "Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge." Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Accessed February 19, 2017.
  11. Bison History Accessed Dec 3, 2010
  12. Strawn, Sheila (2017). Lichen Study Guide for Oklahoma and Surrounding States (1 ed.). Fort Worth, TX: Botanical Research Institute of Texas. p. 45. ISBN   978-1-889878-55-3.
  13. 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.
  14. Ellenbrook, pp. 9, 15
  15. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters
  16. "Rock Climbing - Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge". Fws.gov. 2010-04-08. Retrieved 2011-10-14.
  17. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Wichita Mountains Charons Garden Area
  18. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Burford Lake
  19. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Caddo Lake
  20. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Crater Lake
  21. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: French Lake
  22. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Grama Lake
  23. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Kiowa Lake
  24. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Lake Jed Johnson
  25. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Lake Rush
  26. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Lost Lake
  27. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Osage Lake
  28. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Post Oak Lake
  29. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Quanah Parker Lake
  30. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Treasure Lake
  31. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Wichita Mountains North Mountain Area
  32. Ellenbrook, p. 9; http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/oklahoma/Wichitamountains/index.html, accessed Dec 3, 2010
  33. "Seasonal Temperature and Precipitation Information". Western Regional Climate Center. Retrieved November 15, 2014.
"Species List: Mammals – Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge" (PDF). Retrieved 2007-05-07.Dead link - February 20, 2017