There are all kinds of things to do at a National Wildlife Refuge. You can check out the Visitor Center with exhibits about prairies, wetlands, and people that help conserve our natural resources. You can walk the trails and look for wildlife. You can start or add to a life list while birdwatching. You can learn bird songs. You can take photographs of flowers, trees, or maybe a pelican or an eagle. You can get a bird's eye view of the Refuge and surrounding area by climbing the 110 foot tall tower. You can try catching a fish through the ice or, if you are old enough, hunt deer using a bow and arrow, an old-fashioned muzzleloader, or a modern rifle. Or bring a sketch pad or journal and draw a wetland, butterfly, or the fox you caught a glimpse of. You can learn what a leopard frog sounds like or look for snakes. There are so many places to explore and things to discover that you should plan on visiting more than once.
If you can't visit the Refuge check out the SD Refuge Activity Guide. You can learn about the Refuges in South Dakota and some cool facts about them and the wildlife and habitats they protect.
Do you love to draw? Have you ever drawn a duck or goose? The United States Fish & Wildlife Service hosts a contest every year for budding wildlife artists. It is based on the National Duck Stamp contest but is for youths in grades K-12. Entries are submitted by age group and state. The " Best of Show" winners of the state contests are then sent in to be judged nationally with the top winner getting $5000 and their artwork made into a stamp to be sold in post offices and sporting good stores. Funds generated from the sales of Duck Stamps are used to purchase waterfowl habitat.
Entries are due March 15th and can be submitted individually or as a classroom. For more information, guidelines, state coordinators, and applications visit the Junior Duck Stamp website.
Ever wonder what it would be like to work on a National Wildlife Refuge? There are a number of opportunities for children and young adults to get a taste of a career working at Waubay or any one of the 560 Refuges around the country. For short term projects, Boy scout groups have completed eagle scout activities such as clearing trails or building part of our boardwalk. Girl Scouts have organized work days to stain picnic tables and help put in our blue goose mosaic.
For full time work in the summer, youths can apply for our Youth Conservation Corps if you are between the ages of 16 and 18. Enrollees work eight weeks from June to August for 32 hours per week. Projects may include fence building, invasive species control, and general maintenance. They also may get to visit other wildlife refuges, fish hatcheries, or see how birds are banded. No experience is necessary, just a willingness to work, learn, and have fun. For more information click the link for an application or contact the Wildlife Refuge Manager.
Older youths can apply for an internship through the Student Conservation Association. There are opportunities in all 50 states with positions that may last from three to twelve months. These positions provide a stipend and travel to and from home.They aren't paid positions but they are an excellent way to gain experience and meet prospective employers as well as see different parts of the country.
Many Refuges hire youths age 16 and older for summer jobs that range from biological technicians to firefighters to tractor operators. Most jobs are advertised on usajobs.gov in December.
Youth in the Great Outdoors is an initiative of the U.S. Departments of Interior and Agriculture and provides a place to learn about places to go, things to learn about our natural resources, and employment opportunities.
For students and recent graduates the "Pathways Program" can provide another avenue for finding an internship or permanent job with the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service or other government agencies.
Though most people may think of a game warden as the typical wildlife job, there are many other positions and career paths that can be fulfilled. Some of the jobs available in the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service include fishery biologist, botanist, environmental educator, endangered species biologist, engineer, graphic designer, budget analyst, forensic scientist, wildland firefighter, forester, photographer, information technology specialist, pilot, or writer/editor. There are all kinds of opportunities to help protect and conserve our natural resources for generations to come.
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Ruddy ducks are the clowns of prairie potholes with their bright blue bills and slapstick mating rituals and noises.