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Frequently Asked Questions


When was Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge established? Refuge lands were let aside in 1901.

How big is it? Approximately 59,020 acres

Why is it here? The mission of the Refuge is to preserve, protect and maintain the natural habitat and native wildlife while keeping a unique environment for future generations to study and enjoy.

What can I do there? The refuge was established for the benefit of wildlife so you can enjoy wildlife-dependent activities, including wildlife watching, hiking, hunting, wildlife photography and many special events hosted throughout the year. The refuge also has many environmental education opportunities.

What are the hiking trails on the refuge? There are several nationally recognized hiking trails: Dog Run Hollow, Elk Mountain and Charon's Garden. However, you may hike anywhere in the Public Use Area.

Are there camping and picnic areas? Doris Campground is the public campground on the refuge. Backcountry camping in Charon's Garden is allowed by permit only, and special youth camping is provided in Fawn Creek Campground. Picnic areas are provided at Mt. Scott, Boulder, Lost Lake and Sunset.

Where is it? The refuge is about 30 minutes northwest of Lawton, Oklahoma.

What do I need to bring? You should always wear comfortable walking or hiking shoes. Bring water and protection from the heat/cold. Binoculars will come in handy!

Can I bring my dog? Yes. Your dog is welcome on the Refuge, but it must be restrained on a leash at all times. This is for the dog's protection as much as for the wildlife. Remember, refuges are for wildlife.

Are horses/ATV’s/Off Road Vehicles allowed on the Refuge? No. Livestock of any sort is not allowed on the Refuge, except in trailers travelling through the Refuge. This includes stock in trailers in the camping areas. ATVs/Off Road Vehicles are also prohibited on the refuge.

Can we collect rocks or pan for gold on the Refuge? No. Collections of any type are not allowed on the Refuge without a special permit from the Refuge Manager. Permits are usually only issued for research purposes. This includes the use of metal detectors to "treasure hunt."

Why isn't the Special Use Area open to the public? This area of the Refuge is set aside for research, breeding of animals and preservation of endangered species. The mission of the Refuge is to preserve, protect and maintain the natural habitat and native wildlife while keeping a unique environment for future generations to study and enjoy.

Are there mountain biking trails on the Refuge? Bikes are not allowed off-road on the Refuge, which includes the hiking trails. However, the dirt road behind Mt. Scott is open to mountain biking. This road runs between the Meers Gate and the Medicine Park Gate on the north side of the Refuge and is about 3 miles long.

Is fishing and hunting permitted on the refuge? Fishing is permitted in the lakes in the Public Use Area with an Oklahoma fishing license. Boats are allowed with certain restrictions. Hunting is allowed only through controlled hunts. White tail deer hunts are in November. Elk hunts are held in December. The hunts are managed cooperatively between the Refuge and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Drawings to participate in the hunt are held by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Am I allowed to release raccoon, squirrels, etc. that I have caught at home on the refuge? This is not allowed. Federal regulations(16USC, 50CFR, Part 27.52) consider releasing and plants or animals on any national wildlife refuge as a prohibited act. The possibility off the introduction of disease or a species that may become invasive and require extreme control measures are only part of two of many reasons why this should not occur.

How many bison are on the refuge? The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge maintains a herd of approximately 550 animals. The bison are counted each year after calving season. In October the bison are rounded up, and refuge staff select the ones to sell at auction. The annual bison auction is held the 4th Thursday in October.

Where can we see elk and what is the best time to see them? The elk, like all animals on the refuge, are free to roam the entire 59,020 acres of the refuge. Early morning or late afternoon is usually the best time to see them. The elk on the refuge today are the Rocky Mountain Elk. The Merriam Elk, which were native to this area, are now extinct.

What is the elevation of Mt. Scott? At 2,464 ft. Mt Scott is the second tallest mountain in the Refuge. Mt. Pinchot in the Special Use Area is 12 feet taller.

What is the history of the refuge? In 1901 President McKinley set the Wichitas aside as a Forest Preserve. President Theodore Roosevelt established the National Wildlife System in 1903. In 1905 the Wichitas were made a Forest Reserve and Game Preserve and in 1907 were renamed a Forest and Game Preserve. In 1935 the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge was added to the National Wildlife Refuge System. The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is the oldest managed wildlife facility in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife system.

Why are longhorn cattle on a Wildlife refuge? In the early 1900's, pure longhorn bloodlines were nearly bred out of existence by intensive crossbreeding. Ranger Earl Drummond felt that the longhorns had played a vital part in the history of the American West and that this breed should be saved from extinction. Since the Wichitas were a Forest and Game Preserve, Congress was petitioned to establish and preserve a remnant herd displaying the strongest characteristic of the true longhorn. Through selective breeding and carefully documented record keeping our longhorns today carry true-to-type longhorn bloodlines. The annual longhorn auction is held the 3rd Thursday in September to maintain the herd at approximately 300 head.

Are there predators, such as wolves, bears, mountain lions, coyotes or bobcats? Wolves and black bears were once native to this area, but have been gone almost 100 years. Mountain lions still roam the area, with approximately 3 animals occasionally visiting the Refuge. The Refuge has a healthy population of both coyotes and bobcats.

How can I get a job with the refuge? All federal jobs, including those with Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, are announced and can be applied for at www.USAjobs.gov   
Last Updated: Mar 13, 2013
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