At the intersection
of 73 and 44, just after turning north, check the right side of the
road for a small herd of American Bison. Park and walk up to the fence
in order to get closeup photos, but do not harass or otherwise disturb
the bison. Winter is a particularly good time to photograph them, when
their coats are full and luxuriant. On the way to the refuge, scan the
lake for Bald Eagle, Osprey, and waterfowl.
The refuge covers 8,200 acres along the Washita River. Prairie habitat,
edge-habitat associated with agricultural production, riparian bottomlands,
and a variety of other interesting features make this a haven for wildlife.
Proximate to the refuge headquarters is a prairie dog town. Visitors
can get good looks at these fascinating mammals, which are relatively
unafraid of humans due to the absence of hunting or other human predation.
Check the town for Burrowing Owls, and for raptors such as Swainson's
Hawk and Red-tailed Hawk. Rough-legged Hawk and Ferruginous Hawk occur
here in winter, and the giant shape of Golden Eagle can occasionally
be seen on the refuge. These large, wary birds are difficult to photograph;
much bigger than Turkey Vultures they can be easily distinguished by
their flat wings, as opposed to the slight "v" of the vulture.
An observation deck provides an excellent view of wintering geese behind
the headquarters. A second observation deck is located at Owl Cove near
the Washita River Inlet. Coyotes, badgers, bobcats, and a small but
growing population of mountain lions exist on the refuge. Porcupines,
skunks, beaver, and deer may also be seen. Opossum, six species of bat
(cave myotis, silver-haired, western pipistrel, big brown bat, red bat,
and hoary bat), ringtail, weasels, badgers, skunks (spotted and striped),
gray fox, thirteen-lined ground squirrel, porcupines, jackrabbits, and
a wide variety of rodents also live on the refuge.
Check the river edges from late spring through early fall for an abundance
of butterflies that include sulphurs, hairstreaks, monarchs, and checkerspots.
Dragonflies and damselflies also abound along the river edges. Sandhill
cranes also field in the farm fields that surround the refuge during
winter. Spring migration brings a variety of shorebirds that include
Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper,
Baird's Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, and Long-billed Dowitcher.