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National Wildlife Refuge

Three young black-tailed prairie dogs survey their surroundings from an entrance to their burrow.
702 East Xavier Road
Kirwin, KS   67644
E-mail: kirwin@fws.gov
Phone Number: 785-543-6673
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Black-tailed prairie dogs influence the lives of many prairie animals, including birds of prey, other small mammals, and snakes.
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Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge

Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) was established in 1954 for the conservation, maintenance, and management of wildlife resources, particularly migratory birds.

The Refuge is located in the rolling hills and narrow valley of the north fork of the Solomon River in north-central Kansas. In this region, the tallgrass prairie of the east meets the shortgrass plains of the west. As a result, grasses and wildlife common to both of these habitats are found on the Refuge. Kirwin NWR also includes riparian forest, small wetlands, large open water, and cropland. This habitat diversity supports more than 300 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish.

Getting There . . .
Kirwin NWR is located 6 miles east of Glade, Kansas. From U.S. Highway 183, turn east on Kansas Highway 9. Follow Highway 9 six miles and turn south at the large brown Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge sign. The Refuge headquarters and visitor center is one mile south of Highway 9.

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Wildlife and Habitat

Kirwin NWR consists of 10,778 acres of diverse wildlife habitat. The reservoir on the Refuge is fed both by the north fork of the Solomon River and Bow Creek.

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Historically, great herds of bison roamed the vast grasslands of what is now Kirwin NWR, and wolves followed the herds, feeding on weak and sick animals. Native Americans, who depended on the bison for their subsistence, also resided in this area.

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Management Activities
Many native prairie birds that use the Refuge are in decline on a national level. Consequently, restoring the native grassland habitat is the most critical Refuge management activity. The restoration process includes prescribed burning, grazing, re-seeding, farming, and non-native plant control.

Riparian habitats are dominated by relatively dense stands of smaller native trees and non-native trees, with few canopy openings and an abundance of dead timber. The Refuge staff is in the process of removing non-native trees from the wooded corridor along the creeks and thinning dense stands of remaining trees. Dead timber is also being removed to protect the remaining trees from catastrophic wildfires.

Currently, the water levels of Kirwin Reservoir are receding with the drought cycle and likely will remain low for decades. As a result, the staff is working to control the spread of non-native plants and restore habitat in the dry basin.

In 1967, a remote portion of the Refuge was designated as a Research Natural Area and consists of bluestem and grama prairie grasses. Kirwin NWR has been identified as significant for world bird conservation and officially designated as one of 500 "Globally Important Bird Areas" by the American Bird Conservancy.