National Wildlife Refuge System
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December 2013 Events

red wolf
You can cut your own tree at Moosehorn, Rydell and Kenai National Wildlife Refuges. If you’re lucky, you can get others – your pets, perhaps -- to do the hauling.
Credit: Matt Bowser/USFWS


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

  • Moosehorn Refuge lets visitors cut two balsam fir or pine trees per person, starting at the end of November. Without the public harvest, the trees would have to be cut to maintain road safety. Pick up a free permit from the refuge office before you cut. Phone: 207-454-7161
  • Rydell Refuge will allow Christmas tree cutting on Saturday, December 7 and Sunday, December 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This may be the last year for this activity as the refuge restores native vegetation. Phone: 218-687-2229

  • Kenai Refuge lets visitors hand-cut one tree per family between Thanksgiving and Christmas. No fees or permits are required. Phone: 907-262-7021 or toll-free: 1-877-285-5628.

Holiday Open House
All month − Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, WI
Borrow snowshoes, outdoor activity backpacks and binoculars from the visitor center. Enjoy the wild Wisconsin winter.

Marsh Bird Walk
Sundays, 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. — San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge, CA
Explore native birds and raptors on a guided walk at Sweetwater Marsh. Meet at the Living Coast Discovery Center. The refuge is free to enter, but this guided tour requires LCDC admission ($14).


Wreath-making Workshop
December 7, 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. — Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge, OR
Use branches of native conifers and shrubs in a wreath you can take home. All materials are provided. Bring pruning shears or gardening gloves, if you can. Pre-registration is required: 503-812-6392


Winter Wildlife Excursions
Starting in early December, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, from 1:30 to 4 p.m. — National Elk Refuge, WY
Take a free guided tour along the refuge road where elk, bighorn sheep, waterfowl and other animals can frequently be seen. Hear a naturalist recount refuge history and wildlife management methods. Reservations: 307-734-9378. Updates:


Holiday Open House
Thursday December 5, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. ─ Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge, IL
Celebrate the holiday season with staff from the Cache River Wetlands Joint Venture.


Nature on Film
Thursday, December 5, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. — Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, NJ
Bring a bag lunch and enjoy a nature film. The refuge will provide beverages and dessert.


Eagle Days Celebration
Friday, December 6, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge, MO
Enjoy this 35th annual birding festival.


Full-Moon Howl
Saturday, December 7, 5 to 6:30 p.m. — Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, NC
Hear endangered red wolves in the wild. Bring a flashlight and insect repellent. Howling trips will occur except with lightning, heavy rain, wind or impassable roads. See a short video about the wolves and hear them howl.


Wildlife Holiday Bazaar
Saturday, December 7, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Patuxent Research Refuge, MD
Shop for wild and not-so-wild treasures at this annual Friends group event. See live animals. Make origami ornaments and hand-crafted cards. More information:


Bird Walk
Saturday, December 7, 9 a.m. to noon — John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, PA
Join a free, guided bird walk and learn about the species found in winter at the refuge —  waterfowl, woodpeckers, sparrows, raptors, herons and more. Bring binoculars or borrow them.


Chill Out Winter Film Fest
Saturday, December 7, 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. — Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, MN
See a film about how animals thrive in the cold Minnesota winter. Learn their survival strategies and adaptations. Watch “The Shape of Things,” which uses microphotography to explore how nature’s shapes are formed.


Swampers: Snow Animals
Saturday, December 7, 1 to 2:30 p.m. — Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, OH
Meet a park ranger and take part in hands-on activities and outdoor programs for children ages 6-10. Space is limited. Register: 419-898-0014


Fly Like an Eagle
Thursday, December 12, 10 to 11 a.m. — Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, CO
Discover what it’s like to live in a nest, learn to fly, soar through the air, and be an eaglet for the day. Meet the refuge’s mascot Elliot the Eagle. This interactive program is for ages 3 to 5.  


Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitor Center 10-Year Anniversary
Thursday, December 12, 6 to 8 p.m. — Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, AK
Celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitor Center. Enjoy music and a guest speaker.


Refuge Story Time
Friday, December 13, 10 a.m. — Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, WV
Join this free monthly series for preschoolers. This event will be cancelled if area schools are not in session. Confirm: 304-866-3858.


Second Saturday Nature Programs
Saturday, December 14 — Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, TX
Learn about winter waterfowl. Free program includes an indoor talk and a brief outdoor field trip.


Holiday Wreath Workshop
Saturday, December 14, 1 to 3 p.m. — Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, CO
Make your own fresh or artificial holiday wreath or choose to make a kids wooden wreath with festive decorations. You will be provided with instruction for this fun, easy class complete with hot chocolate and cookies. There is a $15 fee required by December 7 for large wreaths and a $6 fee for kids wreaths.


Christmas on Chesser Island
Saturday, December 14, 6 to 8 p.m.  — Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, GA
Celebrate the holiday season at the Chesser Island Homestead with luminaries, caroling and live music. Tour a swamp homestead adorned with traditional homemade decorations. Stay warm by the bonfire while enjoying homemade cookies, hot chocolate or cider.


Santa Comes to the Visitor Center
Saturday, December 14, 2 to 4 p.m. — Southeast Louisiana Refuges Complex, LA
Santa will greet kids and families in his “Cajun Cottage” outpost in the visitor center, while Mrs. Claus reads stories to get visitors in the holiday spirit. Admission, photos, refreshments and visits with Santa are all free. The event is hosted by the Friends of Louisiana Wildlife Refuges. Enjoy hot chocolate and cookies. Explore the trails and grounds of Bayou Gardens, with many varieties of camellias in bloom.


Winter Sleigh Rides
Starting Monday, December 16 — National Elk Refuge, WY
Enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride to see the elk that winter on the refuge. For details, see: or Sleigh rides will continue through Saturday, April 5, daily except for Christmas.


Night at the Refuge
Friday, December 20, 6 to 8 p.m. — Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, OR
Learn about the nocturnal creatures at the refuge. Start by exploring pelts, skulls and feathers inside. Then head out on the trail to look and listen. Registration is required for this free, family-friendly event: 503-625-5944.


Refuge Auto Tour
Saturday, December 20 to Sunday, December 21, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, OH
Drive through seven miles of the refuge that are normally closed to the public. Pick up a printed guide at the auto tour entrance, off the visitor center parking lot, for information on refuge habitats, management and recent sightings. All auto tours are weather dependent.


Winter Tram Tour
Saturday, December 22, 1 to 4:30 p.m. — Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, VA
Take a ride on an open-air tram and see the ducks, geese and swans that make Back Bay Refuge their winter home. Continue into False Cape State Park for a one-mile hike to the Wash Woods cemetery and church site. $8 per person. Reservations are required: 757-426-7128.


Winter Wildlife Snowshoe Trek
Friday, December 27, 10 to 11:30 a.m. — Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, MN
Take a snowshoe discovery hike along Long Meadow Lake and sense the pulse of winter wildlife on the refuge. Snowshoes will be provided.


Holiday Open House
Tuesday, December 31, all day – Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, WI   
Self-guided items for check out from the visitor center include snowshoes, “Let’s Go Outside” Activity Backpacks, and binoculars.  Enjoy and explore the wild Wisconsin winter!


Christmas Bird Count
Many national wildlife refuges will host the 114th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count on specified dates between December 14 and January 5. The citizen science effort provides data on bird population trends. To find a bird count near you, check this page. Among refuges participating this year are:

Sunday, December 15, 6 a.m. to dusk  – Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge, SC

Christmas Bird Counts, the
Sunday, December 15, all day —  Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, NV

Monday, December 16, all day —  Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, MD −

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

Monday, December 16, 6 a.m. to sunset ­—  Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge, IL

Saturday, December 21, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. —  Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, MO

Saturday, December 21, 7 a.m. to dusk —  Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, TX  Sign up:

Saturday, December 21, 8 a.m. to dusk – Mingo National Wildlife Refuge, MO

Sunday, December 22, all day —  Santee National Wildlife Refuge, SC 

Sunday, December 29, all day —  Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge, AZ 

Monday, December 30, dawn to dusk —   Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, CA
he 114th Christmas Bird Count will be happening between December 14, 2013 and Monday, December 30, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. — Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, TX

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Last updated: November 27, 2013