What We Do
The National Wildlife Refuge System is a series of lands and waters owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the refuge system. It drives everything we do from the purpose a refuge is established, to the recreational activities offered there, to the resource management tools we use. Selecting the right tools helps us ensure the survival of local plants and animals and helps fulfill the purpose of the refuge.
Water management is the priority at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge. Many wetland units are connected by water control structures and pipes, so that water can be moved between units at different times of the year. Some wetland units can be filled with water from Richart Lake and Storm Creek. Water from Stanfield Lake is sometimes used to flood the closed waterfowl sanctuary area to provide attractive feeding areas for birds. Moist soil units - low open areas surrounded by dikes - are gradually filled with water in the fall and drained in late spring to provide feeding and resting areas for waterfowl and shorebirds.
The fragmentation of forests is a problem for many forest-nesting birds. Refuge staff and volunteers have planted thousands of young oak trees to fill in gaps in woodlands in recent years. By planting nut-producing trees in openings between patches of woods, the process of natural succession is speeded up and trees of high value to wildlife come in faster. Most tree plantings in recent years have included many kinds of oaks, hickories, and black walnut.
Refuge managers aim to maintain a diversity of lands for wildlife that includes grasslands. To meet this goal, we use a combination of mowing and burning on a rotational basis to keep open lands for wildlife.
Refuge staff in recent years have been establishing pollinator habitats in many locations on the refuge. Pollinator habitats are patches of native wildflowers and grasses that provide food for beneficial pollinators like bees and butterflies. Only species native to Indiana are planted and plant species are selected that will provide blooms over the entire summer for the pollinating insects. The Muscatatuck Wildlife Society, with the help of funding from several organizations, has been involved with restoring a wet sedge meadow adjacent to the Nature Discovery Area by the Visitor Center and has provided funding for the planting of several other refuge habitats.
Invasive non-native plants, including autumn olive and multiflora rose, as well as Japanese and bush honeysuckle, are very common at the refuge. In some areas these unwanted plants cover the landscape and smother native wildlife-food plants. Large machines are sometimes used by refuge staff to clear large patches of autumn olive and the shredded branches may be sometimes seen along roadsides.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement officers have a wide variety of duties and responsibilities. They work closely with state and county officers to enforce federal, state and refuge hunting regulations and spend most of their time in the field patrolling refuge lands. Indiana Conservation Officers and the Indiana State Police also work the refuge on a regular basis and can be contacted quickly by calling the South Region Dispatch Center at 812-837-9536.
Law enforcement issues should be reported to the refuge manager by calling 812-522-4352 or emailing Muscatatuck@fws.gov.
You may also report violations to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources TIP (Turn in a Poacher) line at 1-800-847-4367. You do not need to leave your name.
Laws and Regulations
- Edible mushrooms, nuts, fruits and berries may be collected for personal use only. All other collecting of plants is prohibited.
- Shed deer antlers may be collected for personal use only. The collection of dead animal parts and live animals is not permitted.
- The sale of any items obtained from the refuge is prohibited.
- Bicycling is permitted only on gravel or paved roads. Riding on hiking trails is prohibited.
- Dogs must be kept on a leash, unless participating in an authorized hunting activity.
- Filming motion pictures for commercial use is not allowed without a special permit.
- Searching for or removing any historic or Native American artifacts from the refuge is not permitted.