The Woodward News

January 10, 2014

Washita Refuge sets wildlife tour

Rachael Van Horn
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — Biologist and Manager of Washita National Wildlife Refuge, Amber Zimmerman must own a crystal ball.

Otherwise there is no other way to explain how she managed to plan a wildlife tour this weekend, possibly the prettiest yet this winter.  

“The weather is supposed to be perfect, the wind isn't supposed to blow and it is supposed to be beautiful,” Zimmerman said.

 Washita National Wildlife Refuge and Foss State Park are partnering to host a wildlife viewing tour on Saturday. The tour begins at 9 a.m. at the refuge headquarters located 5 miles west of Butler, Oklahoma on Highway 33 then 1 mile north and ½ mile west. The tour is free to the public.

This will be the first time the facility will be able to use their new tour bus, Zimmerman said.

“Always in the past, we would caravan and everyone would take their vehicles,” Zimmerman said. “But that was a problem because we might spot something in the spotting scope and by the time someone could get up to see it, it would be gone.”

Now, those who wish to take their families on the wildlife tour can sit in a temperature controlled environment and get a chance to see a Bald Eagle’s nest, and even a Bald Eagle as well as have the opportunity to see many other wildlife on the 8,075 acre protected refuge.

Zimmerman said the refuge was founded in 1961.

Partnering this year with Foss Lake adds several thousand acres to the tour and that many more opportunities to see various wildlife, she said.

People attending the tour could get a chance to see everything from Bald Eagles to thousands of geese in three varieties, bobcats, coyotes, armadillo, and deer.

“Washita Refuge is home to a number of migratory and resident wildlife species, and is a wintering home for bald eagles. These birds of prey feed on fish from Foss Reservoir and geese from neighboring fields, and are often seen in trees along the lake shore,” Zimmerman said.  “Several mature eagles (with white heads and tails) and immature eagles (uniformly brown colored) have been observed in recent weeks. In fact I was out yesterday and saw three.”

The tour bus will stop at several locations and allow those who want to use the spotting scopes to do so, but Zimmerman encourages watchers to bring their own binoculars as well.

The tour also promises to be a fun event for bird watchers and also those who just enjoy getting out on a beautiful day in the sunshine.

“There are some people who just really get a kick out of watching the prairie dogs we have near the refuge headquarters,” she said.

While the weather is going to be nice, Zimmerman reminds those coming to bring a coat in case the weather changes.

You can contact the refuge at (580) 664-2205 or visit online at http://www.fws.gov/refuge/Washita.