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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Let's Go Outside! Featured Refuge Events for the Week of December 12th

Is holiday shopping, cooking, and preparing making you say "Bah-Humbug" more than "Happy Holidays!"?  Take a break from all the running around and head outside to get a breath of fresh air. Even though the temperature is dropping there are still things to do and see.

Here are some of the events happening at refuges across the country this week, some in the spirit of the season.  Check out this link for more events happening in December on our refuges.

As always, make sure you head over to the Refuge System's homepage and use their searchable map to find events at a Wildlife Refuge near you.

Let's go outside!

SnowshoeingGuests snowshoe at Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge in the Mountain-Praire Region, Photo: Jennifer Jewett

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What's a National Wildlife Refuge?

As someone who works for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I’m occasionally asked about what a National Wildlife Refuge is.  My first response is always, "well, it's sort of like a park, but different."

That is, of course, true, but I always want to give more of an explanation.  So, without further adieu, here it is:

Within the Department of the Interior, you’ll find both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – which manages national wildlife refuges -- and National Park Service – which manages national parks.  Both work toward preservation of our natural world, but, there are differences.

Arctic Refuge AlaskaThinking on a mountain at Arctic Refuge in Alaska Photo: Steve Chase/USFWS

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Wyoming: ‘Perfect Storm’ Fuels Mountain Pine Beetle Epidemic

An extreme closeup of a mountain pine beetle
Triggered by a “perfect storm” of extended droughts, warm winters, and old, dense forests, mountain pine beetle populations have exploded across a landscape of lodgepole pine trees throughout Colorado and southeastern Wyoming. Photo: USDA Forest Service. Download.

Lodgepole pine forests in parts of Wyoming and other areas of the Intermountain West are being infested by the native mountain pine beetle – a voracious bug smaller than your little fingernail that is thriving in a warming climate.

Triggered by a “perfect storm” of extended droughts, warm winters, and old, dense forests, mountain pine beetle populations have exploded across a landscape of lodgepole pine trees throughout Colorado and southeastern Wyoming.

The mountain pine beetle is a true predator on many western pine trees because to successfully reproduce, the beetles must kill host trees. They typically kill trees already weakened by disease or old age, but even a healthy tree’s defensive mechanisms can be exhausted when beetle numbers are at epidemic levels. The beetle attacks pines in late summer, dispersing a chemical signal that attracts other beetles to mass-attack the tree. When the beetles bore through the bark of the tree, they introduce blue-stain fungus, which can work quickly to kill the tree. Trees stressed by drought and old-age are unable to produce sufficient defenses to fend off beetle attacks. The beetles form tunnels and lay eggs underneath the bark, which hatch into larvae. The larvae spend the winter underneath the bark and emerge as adults in the summer, beginning the cycle again.

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