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Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

By Melva Wheeler (melvatooMarch 9, 2009

My husband first saw the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge when he played flight simulator. He had wanted to go there for a long time, so one weekend we made the drive. The refuge is in Oklahoma, and it is just a couple of hours drive by car from where I live.

Gardening picture

The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge covers an area of over 59,000 acres. It contains the weathered remains of one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world. The knobs and crags of the Wichita Mountains are all that can be seen today, as they have eroded with the passage of time.

We decided to take our first trip in the spring. One of the best times to see the beauty of the refuge is in May, which is a little bit late to be able to see the baby animals. I love to see the fawns and the elk calves. Someday I will be able to time my visit to the refuge--maybe even this year. We are planning another trip soon.


The refuge is located in Southwestern Oklahoma, and is on the migration route of many different species of birds. Some of the animals in the refuge include whitetail deer, buffalo, rocky mountain elk and prairie dogs. The first time we visited, I was able to see a bird I had only seen before in pictures: a rose-breasted grosbeak. One of the rangers told me that she has seen painted and indigo buntings at the feeders at her home and at feeders near the visitor's center.

Imagepainted buntingImageindigo buntingImageRose breasted grosbeak

The Black Tailed Prairie Dogs are one of my favorites. There are several "dog towns" in the refuge. The animals have become quite used to human visitors, and they often look as though they are posing for the camera. Tourists mostly ignore the signs telling people not to feed the prairie dogs.

Once when visiting the prairie dogs I leaned over and the gum I was chewing fell out of my mouth. It was snatched up by a young prairie dog. The gum was blue, which seemed to be a bit of a puzzle, but it was eaten anyway. I was concerned because of the possibility of pathogens in the gum. I know that many benign bacteria present in the human body may be a problem when ingested by a prairie dog. But there was no chance of getting the gum back from the prairie dog.



Buffalo have become very numerous. They are commonly seen loafing near the visitor center. In the evening, especially in the winter, they are often bedded down in the middle of the road.


Image Buffalo   Image

The refuge is a combination of grassland prairie and post oak woods, and also includes artificial forests of cedar elm and bois d' arc.  It is interesting to see some of the plants that I have in my yard such as buttonbush and coreopsis growing in a natural setting.


Imageplains coreopsis Imagebuttonbush

The refuge is beautiful in all seasons, and we have been there at all times of the year.

Pictures were taken by Phil McLaughlin and used with his permission.
Photos of Fawn and Elk Calf are from Wikimedia Commons

Photo of painted bunting used by permission of gardenpom

Photo of indigo bunting used by permission of linthicum

Photo of rose-breasted grosbeak used by permission of Mrs. Ed


  About Melva Wheeler  
Melva WheelerI live in Texas, but my heart is in Florida, where I was born. I am married. No kids, unless my cat is counted, which he should be. I also have a tortoise, Graham. I have always been a gardener. I have grown vegetables, herbs, and Roses! They have become a passion. I have very few modern roses. It is the antiques, that appeal to me. My interests are photography, reading, cooking and some traveling, so I can be excited to come home again!

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