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. The wildlife and habitats of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge are managed using prescribed fire, grazing management,control, reservoir management, fish stocking, public use management, Wilderness management, and controlled hunts to manage wildlife populations.
Management and Conservation
Refuges use a wide range of land management tools based on the best science available. Some refuges use prescribed fires to mimic natural fires that would have cleared old vegetation from the land helping native plants regenerate and local wildlife to thrive. Other refuges contain Wilderness areas where land is largely managed passively. The management tools used are aimed at ensuring a balanced conservation approach where both wildlife and people will benefit. At this field station our conservation toolbox includes: wildland fire management,monitoring and control, and controlled hunting.
Fire is an integral part of the Wichita Mountains ecosystem and an important management tool of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.
The Oklahoma and North Texas Fire Management program is made up of professional wildland firefighters that are stationed at the refuge. These firefighters respond to wildfires on the refuge and elsewhere in the country as well as work with refuge staff to meet the management goals of the refuge. Fire once occurred naturally on this landscape but with the settlement of the area came suppression of wildfires. To mimic that historic natural burning pattern for the benefit of wildlife, the Fire Management program conducts prescribed burns under a very strict prescription with safety being the top priority. In addition, the fire program works with surrounding communities to help them protect themselves from wildfires. As the population grows and development expands where wildland and urban meet, the risk of wildfires is significantly increasing for those who chose to live near wildlands. The fire program strives to support communities in their effort to protect citizens and property from wildfires.
Some plant and animal species are non-native, invasive, or both to the ecosystem they are found in. Their introduction causes, or is likely to cause, economic or environmental harm, harm to human health and harm to native plant and animal species. Problem species can be plants, animals, or pathogens. Of particular concern at Wichita Mountains are feral hogs and a variety of plants like eastern red cedar, common mullein, sweet clover, and prickly lettuce. Refuge staff, volunteers, and contractors work to control invasive species through a variety of methods including monitoring which is often followed with manual removal or chemical application.
Carrying Capacity and Controlled Hunting
The habitats within the refuge can only support a certain number of animals. Since large predators, such as wolves, no longer exist as part of the larger landscape, hunting is used to manage animal populations and to ensure the healthiest animal herds possible. Refuge Biologists monitor the elk and deer numbers and adjust the number of tags issued accordingly. Bison and longhorn also have a maximum population size the refuge can support; however, their numbers are reduced through animal capture and transfer (bison) or through auction (longhorn).
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement officers have a wide variety of duties and responsibilities. Officers help visitors understand and obey wildlife protection laws. They work closely with state and local government offices to enforce federal, state and refuge hunting regulations that protect migratory birds and other game species from illegal take and preserve legitimate hunting opportunities.
Laws and Regulations
Wichita Mountains was established “for the protection of the game animals and birds.” To help facilitate your visit, our team has established specific rules and regulations. While onsite, visitors are expected to follow all federal laws, policies, and regulations. Please note: not all state laws are applicable to federal lands, please familiarize yourself with the regulations below to better ensure that you have a positive experience.