DOINews: USFWS: Have a Holly, Jolly Season at a National Wildlife Refuge

Last edited 09/05/2019

Walking in a winter wonderland? Check. At some national wildlife refuges, you can also hear sleigh bells ring, join in carols or turn fresh pine boughs into a festive holiday wreath. Many refuges will host free, family-friendly holiday-season activities through the New Year. See what holiday treats are in store at a wildlife refuge near you. Check here for added listings.

sleighAt National Elk Refuge in Wyoming, visitors enjoy a sleigh ride past wintering elk. Credit: Lori Iverson / USFWS
At National Elk Refuge in Wyoming, visitors enjoy a sleigh ride past wintering elk. Photo by Lori Iverson, USFWS.

Cut Your Own Christmas Tree

Work off those holiday-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. The trees must be cut to maintain road safety. Pick up a free permit from the refuge office before you cut. Phone: 207-454-7161
  • Kenai Refuge lets visitors hand-cut one tree per family between Thanksgiving and Christmas. No fees or permits are required. Cutting is restricted to certain areas. Phone: 907-262-7021 or toll-free: 1-877-285-5628.

Holiday Open House

All month − Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, Wis.

Borrow snowshoes, outdoor activity backpacks and binoculars from the visitor center. Enjoy the wild Wisconsin winter.

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 often be seen. Hear a naturalist recount refuge history and wildlife management methods. To reserve a seat, call 307-734-9378 or stop in the visitor center. Updates:

Winter Sleigh Rides

Enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride to see the elk that winter at National Elk Refuge in Wyoming. For details, see: or Sleigh rides will continue through Saturday, April 5, daily except for Christmas.

Christmas Bird Count

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

Sunday, Dec. 29, all day — Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge, Ariz.

Monday, Dec. 30, dawn to dusk — Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, Calif.

Monday, Dec. 30, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. — Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, Texas.

Holiday Open House

Tuesday, Dec. 31, all day – Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, Wis.

Self-guided items for checkout from the visitor center include snowshoes, “Let's Go Outside” activity backpacks, and binoculars. Enjoy and explore the wild Wisconsin winter!

Christmas Tree Drop-Off

March 2014, Exact date TBA. Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, La.

If you live near the refuge, you can see that your Christmas tree aids wetland restoration when the holiday ends. Place your tree at the curb for collection and delivery to the refuge by city contractors. Volunteers will band the trees together for a helicopter sling. The Louisiana National Guard will drop bundled trees in selected wetlands to boost habitat for waterfowl, wading birds and other wildlife. In recent years, this effort has created about 100 new acres of refuge marshland. Check the refuge website for updates.

By: Susan Morse, writer-editor, USFWS

Dec. 24, 2013

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