National Wildlife Refuge System
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December 2012 Events

Hawk in snow

A Cooper's hawk scans a snowy landscape for its next meal. On Thursday, December 13, youngsters at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Colorado will learn from a ranger how animals survive winter.

Credit: Kent Mason/USFWS

Cut Your Own Christmas Tree
Work off those Christmas-season calories by cutting your own tree at Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Maine and Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

  • Moosehorn Refuge lets visitors cut two balsam fir or pine trees per person. Without the public harvest, the trees would have to be cut to maintain road visibility. Pick up a free permit from the refuge office before you cut.
  • Kenai Refuge lets visitors cut one tree by hand per family between Thanksgiving and Christmas. No fees or permits are required.

Holiday Open House
Thursday, December 6, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. — Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge, IL. Join staff from the Cache River Wetlands Joint Venture in a holiday season celebration.


Holiday Howl
Saturday, December 8, 4 to 6 p.m. — Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, NC
Give yourself a holiday treat and hear endangered red wolves in the wild. See a short video about the wolves and hear them howl.


Anniversary Open House
Saturday, December 8, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. ─ Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, MD 
Help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the refuge. Contact 410-639-7056 or for more information.


Christmas on Chesser Island
Saturday, December 8, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. — Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, GA
Celebrate the holiday season at the Chesser Island Homestead with a hayride, luminaries, caroling and live music. Tour a swamp homestead adorned with traditional homemade decorations.


Fall Birding Tour
Saturday, December 8, 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. — St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, FL
Go birding on the refuge. Experienced and novice birders are welcome.


Bobcat F.U.N.
Saturday, December 8, 10:30 to noon — Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, IL
Bobcats are abundant and frequently seen on the refuge. Come learn about the lives of these small wild cats. There will be a live bobcat presentation and fun activities at the visitor center.


Fire-Season Talk
Tuesday, December 11, 7 p.m. — Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge, ID
Hear a speaker from the National Interagency Fire Center talk about the 2012 fire season and give an update on Boo-Boo, the bear cub.


Wildlife in a Winter Wonderland
Thursday, December 13, 10 to 11 a.m. — Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, CO
Join a ranger to discover how animals at the refuge survive the winter. Play winter survival games and make your own craft to take home. Recommended for ages 3 to 6.


Film: “Mother Nature’s Child”
Thursday, December 13, 7 to 8:30 p.m. — Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, MA
See a film exploring nature’s powerful role in children’s health and development. A short discussion will follow.


Sparrows of North Texas
Friday, December 14, 10 a.m. to noon — Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, TX
Learn to identify Texas sparrows.


Christmas Bird Count
Friday, December 14 to Saturday, January 5, 2013
Scores of refuges will take part in the National Audubon Society’s 113th annual holiday season bird count, one of the country’s longest-running citizen science projects. Data collected show trends of bird populations across North America. Join tens of thousands of volunteers in counting birds and furthering bird conservation. To find a bird count near you, check the right-hand side of this page starting in mid-November.


Some participating refuges and event dates include:

For more information, contact Bonnie Swarbrick at 520-823-4251

Counting teams will cover about a third of Kent County on this day, including the refuge. Registration is required: 410-778-9568. 

For more information and to RSVP, contact Rona Balco or Don MacFarlane at 978-897-7567.

For more information, call 618-634-2231.

Birdwatchers of all levels are welcome. Meet at the Valero Gas station at the intersection of Hwy 105 and Hwy 321, about 6 miles southeast of Cleveland. Some folks will bird the “bottoms” so bring a sack lunch, rubber knee boots and other appropriate outdoor clothing. A wrap-up dinner will be held at the Plantation restaurant in Cleveland. For more information: 936-336-9786.
Christmas Bird Count for Kids
Why should adults have all the fun? Starter versions at many refuges teach youngsters the joy of birding and contributing to a major citizen science effort. Here’s one example:

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, UT – Thursday, December 27, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Spend the morning learning about birds, identifying birds, and helping scientists count birds in the area. Attend a Binocular Boot Camp. Then look for as many birds as possible. Designed for kids ages 6-15. Parents, grandparents and friends are welcome. Bring a lunch for the tallying party afterwards. Sign up: 435-723-5887


Dragonflies as Environmental Sentinels
Saturday, December 15, 10 a.m. – Daybreak Bakery, 241 Main Street, Old Town Rockland, ME
Learn what the dragonflies of Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Maine may be able to tell us about how mercury, a toxin, moves up food chains.


Staying Warm in Winter
Sunday, December 16, 2. to 3 p.m. — Patuxent Research Refuge, MD
Learn how heat moves, ways to trap it and ways it is lost. Discover strategies people and wildlife use to keep warm in winter including winter survival skills.


Animals After Dark
Sunday, December 16, 2 to 3 p.m. — Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, CA
As we fall asleep each night, some creatures are just waking up. Learn how these animals have adapted to the night environment. Located at the Environmental Education Center in Alviso. All ages welcome. Reservations: 408-262-5513 ext. 104.


Nature Walks: A Sense of Place
Sunday, December 16, 2 to 4 p.m. — Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, MA
As the winter solstice approaches, explore the landscape for feeding birds, dusk-time activity around an active beaver lodge and resident owls. For more information: 978-760-1933.


Horse-Drawn Sleigh Ride in Elk Country  
Monday, December 17 through Saturday, April 6, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily except Christmas — National Elk Refuge, WY
Hour-long horse-drawn sleigh rides in elk country, led by Double H Bar, Inc., have a bonus:  a close-up view of the refuge’s great elk herds. Tickets ($18 adults; $14 ages 5-12; under age 5 free) are sold at the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center. Learn more about the rides here


Holiday Tour
Saturday, December 22 and Saturday, December 29, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. — Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, CO
Jump aboard the holiday express tour bus to see bison, deer, coyotes, bald eagles and more. After the tour, make a seasonal craft in the Discovery Room and help decorate the refuge tree.


Sanibel Island Lecture Series
Thursday, December 27, 11 a.m. — J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, FL
Learn about the wolves of Yellowstone from Douglas W. Smith, a senior wildlife biologist for Yellowstone National Park. Education Center Auditorium.


Refuge Fledgling Hour
Friday, December 28, 10:30. to 11:30 a.m. — Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, MA
Learn how animals deal with snow and the science behind a snowflake. Crafts and an outdoor adventure are included. For ages 2 to 5 years old; siblings welcome.


Palmetto Pro Birder Modules
Saturday, December 29, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday, December 30, 7 a.m. to noon — Santee National Wildlife Refuge, SC
Learn to identify the birds in your backyard and elsewhere in South Carolina. Find out how you can act as a citizen scientist to help save the birds and their habitats. Become a certified Palmetto Pro Birder. Cost: $150. Register: 803-256-0670 or

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Last updated: December 3, 2012